RICHARD HUTCHINGS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RICHARD HUTCHINGS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Striking a match starts a chemical reaction. There are two types of matches: safety matches and strike anywhere matches. A safety match can only light when someone strikes it against the striking surface on the side of the match box. A strike anywhere match can be lit by striking the match on anything solid. A striking surface is made of sand, powdered glass, and a chemical called red phosphorus. The head of a safety match is made of sulphur, glass powder, and an oxidizing agent. An oxidizing agent is a chemical that takes electrons from another chemical. When a match is struck on the striking surface of its box, the friction caused by the glass powder rubbing together produces enough heat to turn a very small amount of the red phosphorus into white phosphorus, which catches fire in air. A strike anywhere match works in a similar way, but instead of phosphorus being on a striking surface, it is added to the head of the match. You can tell the difference between the two types of.
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