25 November: The Secret of Man's Red Fire

25 March 2007

Dr Daren Caruana – UCL Chemistry

Fire has always captivated the imagination of humans and probably animals too (according to King Louie who wanted to know ‘the secret of Man’s red fire’ in Disney’s production of the ‘Jungle Book’, inspired by Rudyard Kipling). Harnessing the by-products of combustion, fire and heat have actually transformed our lives in innumerable ways; from providing light to jet powered flight. In truth, scientists from many disciplines have also been captivated by the challenge of understanding fire. The earliest recorded investigations by Frances Bacon date back to 1600, but Michael Faraday propelled flames into the limelight when he famously captivated his audience at a Christmas lecture at the Royal Institution called ‘Chemical History of a Candle’ in 1861. However, research on flames and combustion in general, has experienced a lull in recent years. This lecture will explore and present a modern take on flames; in particular the chemistry and the electrical properties of flames.

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