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Name: Jhon
Status: Student
Grade: 9-12
Location: CO
Country: USA
Date: June 2006


Question:
Recently, I have come across an intriguing discovery, powdered coffee creamer, when poured over a flame, can be quite flammable. While conducting some experiments, I read the back of pack of coffee creamer and it said, "Note, keep away from an open flame, as with all powdered substances, the contents of this packet are extremely flammable." I was wondering why this happens. This only happens when the powder is poured over a flame giving the powder room to spread.



Replies:
In powders, there is a very large surface area to volume ratio. Since the rate of reaction depends on available surface atoms, when there is a large surface area to volume ratio, a reaction can happen very quickly and even be explosive.

A 1-gram pellet of zinc is much less reactive than 1 gram of powdered zinc. A large wooden log is much more difficult to ignite than a similar amount of sawdust. Granaries have explosion hazards when grain is transferred due to the dust that becomes airborne and possible static electricity sparks. In the case of the creamer, it will oxidize (burn) in the presence of a flame and oxygen when dispersed. This can be a very rapid and potentially dangerous situation.

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