6.2 Flame Colors

Chemical Concepts Demonstrated: Atomic emission spectra, Bohr atomic model


Different types of powdered metals and salts are sprinkled over a flame.


    The video shows the metals and salts in this order:

Metal or salt:

1. Copper acetate

2. Copper

3. Potassium iodide

4. Magnesium

5. Iron

6. Lithium carbonate

7. Strontium nitrate

8. Sodium chloride


Green flame

Blue-green flame

Violet flame

White sparks

Yellow sparks

Blue flame

Red flame

Yellow flame


    When a metal or metal salt is added to a flame, a combustion reaction ensues.  This reaction excites an electron in the metal from its ground state to a higher orbital.  In order to return to its ground state, the electron releases the additional energy in the form of light. 

    Different metal electrons emit different wavelengths of light to return to their respective ground states, so the flame colors are varied.  These flames can be used to produce atomic emmision spectra of the elements combusted.   Using known values of emmision spectra, one can perform a flame test on un unknown substance, gather an emmision spectrum from it, and determine which elements are in the unknown substance.