DAVID TAYLOR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID TAYLOR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Performing a calcium flame test. A flame test is a a simple way to test for the presence of certain metals in a compound. A small amount of the sample is placed on the end of a platinum wire and held in a Bunsen flame. Certain metals can be detected by the colour of flame produced: calcium produces a reddish-orange flame, sodium a yellow flame and potassium a lilac flame, for example. This is caused by the fluorescence of the metal ions within the flame; the compound is ionised by the heat and the excited metal ions give out light of a characteristic wavelength or colour.
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