Where Does The Candle Wax Go?

Cecil said:
>>“Many people find the fact that burning produces water surprising. They shouldn’t. The great British scientist Michael Faraday used to do an annual lecture on the “chemical history of a candle” in which he would hold a flask full of ice above a candle flame. After a short time the flask would be covered with droplets of water, most of it newly manufactured by the burning candle.”<<

Ah, but was it really the burning that produced the water? Even without the candle flame, wouldn’t the droplets of water have been produced anyway by condensation, which as anyone who has enjoyed a frosty beverage outdoors or owns an indoor toilet knows, water droplets will form on the surface of anything quite cold even at room temperature? Even if Faraday was indeed correct, would it likewise be true that if we were to set a bag of our hair on fire, the hair would produce droplets of plain ol’ H2O because it was burning?


LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/812/where-does-the-candle-wax-go

Candle wax is paraffin wax, composed of carbon and hydrogen (basically a form of methane, which itself is a paraffin, molecules with the form CnH2n+2); when burned, the hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to form water and carbon dioxide (ideally), as the following formula shows:

CH4 + 2 O2 = 2 H2O + CO2

As for condensing the water out without atmospheric water vapor affecting what you observe, you could use two setups, one with a candle and the other without a candle and see which one has more condensation.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, scottybuck, we’re glad you found us! For future ref, it’s helpful to other readers to provide a link to the column in question. Saves search time and helps keep us on the same page. (It was helpful that you quoted the column name, but the link is even more helpful.)
No biggie, I’ve edited it onto the end of your post, and you’ll know for next time. And, as I say, welcome!