Yes, charcoal has flame

Cecil mentions that he suspects charcoal has flame in his column “What Exactly Is Fire.”

Clearly, Cecil has never used one of those charcoal starter cans for his barbecue nor has he seen it at night. Charcoal burns with a bright orange flame that is typically invisible in daylight. But it is there. You just have to pile enough coals on top of each other to get the flame tall enough to see.

Yeah, just because there’s not a huge dancing yellow flame like a campfire doesn’t mean there aren’t flames.

Charcoal has had all sorts of chemicals driven out of it during a hot, but not flaming creation process. So it burns in a more monotone reaction.

From another site.

Infrared is the region of the electromagnetic spectrum that extends from the visible region to about one millimeter (in wavelength). Infrared waves include thermal radiation. For example, burning charcoal may not give off light, but it does emit infrared radiation which is felt as heat. Infrared radiation can be measured using electronic detectors and has applications in medicine and in finding heat leaks from houses. Infrared images obtained by sensors in satellites and airplanes can yield important information on the health of crops and can help us see forest fires even when they are enveloped in an opaque curtain of smoke.

Charcoal flames, may only be from other things in the mix, or imperfect charcoal.

I concur that if you look at a charcoal fire that’s going as the sunlight starts to wane, you will see a glowing orange flame around the coals that is not visible when the sun is higher in the sky. I do barbecuing quite often late in the season and sometimes somewhat later at night than a normal dinner so that I see it a few times a year, at least.

The fire has to be hot enough for the exhaust gases to radiate light in the visible part of the spectrum. As it gets cooler, the radiation shifts into the infrared to where humans can’t see it. So the energy is still boiling off, but is it correctly called “flames” if we can’t see them?

Indy cars use methanol. Methanol is an alcohol fuel. As such, it burns a hell of a lot cleaner than gasoline.

Which means that when the cars catch on fire, the fuel itself can be burning without any visible flames, but burn damage is readily evident, and the spread of fire to other materials will produce flames and soot.

Maybe I build exceptionally well-ventilated fires, but wood charcoal burns mostly blue.

depends. I use hardwood (lump) charcoal, which isn’t anything but wood char. Briquettes are the ones which have other stuff in them. when I light a chimney of lump charcoal, I don’t see any visible “flames” per se, but there’s definitely a glow among the coals.

edit: I re-read your statement and realized you’re talking about the production of charcoal. so never mind me.

“no visible flame” is not the same as “cleaner burning.” Burning methanol gives you formaldehyde as a by-product, which is not exactly pleasant.