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Flame Tests

 Just as a fingerprint is unique to each person, the color of light emitted after excitation of an element is different for each element. When a metallic element’s electrons absorb energy, by heating for example, the electron is said to become “excited”. When an excited electron moves back to its “ground state” (non-excited), energy is emitted in the form of light.


bulletToothpicks or wood splints
bulletPaper cups                  
bulletLarge candle
bulletMetal pie pan  
bulletDistilled water
bulletPliers or tongs
bulletSolutions made from metal compounds:
bullet Calcium (calcium chloride)
bullet Copper (copper chloride)
bullet Potassium (potassium chloride)
bullet Sodium (sodium chloride)


  1. Dissolve a small amount of each metal compound in distilled water. (The concentration is not important) Use a separate paper cup for each metal solution. Label the cups with the names of the metal solutions. Fill and label one cup with plain distilled water to serve as a control.
  2. Soak some wood splints or toothpicks in each solution cup.
  3. Place a candle securely in the metal pie pan, and pour some water in the pan. Light the candle, remembering flame safety.
  4. Use the tongs or pliers to hold a toothpick so the soaked end is in the candle’s flame. Observe the color, and record data in the table below.

Data Table

















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Copyright © 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008