Ping Pong balls are made of celluloid, which is a type of plastic. They do not burn easily and can be used to put out fires. However, their lightweight does make them susceptible to high winds and they may take flight if the fire is strong enough or in an enclosed space. Ping pong balls were created by British inventor John Jaques in 1869 for use as weights for table tennis rackets. The name “ping pong” came from one of these early games where Englishmen played Chinese residents at the World Fair in London using paddles made with ping pong ball halves stuck together with rubber bands so that they would bounce off each other more forcefully than a single piece of rubber could have done!
How Ping Pong Balls Are Made
Ping pong balls are made of celluloid or thermoplastic. As the material exits the mold, it is white and opaque; however, when the ball is struck with a paddle during play, it turns bright red. This is because of how ping pong balls are manufactured. After an untwisted string (or “stem”) of ping pong balls flammable?
celluloid is pulled through a heated cylinder, it turns into a gel that can be cut up and molded to create balls. To make ping pong balls, the celluloid mixture is forced between two metal plates to make round blobs. The molten plastic spheres are then placed on a rotating rod mill machine, which will pop them off into a bucket when they are done.
Flammable Celluloid in Ping Pong Balls
The problem is that celluloid contains nitrocellulose, which decomposes in the presence of heat and oxygen to form more stable materials. This process creates both nitrogen dioxide (a toxic gas) and also nitric acid (which can cause irritation to the lungs). Temperature increases will speed up this process, making it occur rapidly enough to generate a fire.
Nitrocellulose is not all bad, because it can provide a pyrotechnic effect – but only if confined tightly – hence the invention of celluloid collars for rifle cartridges. But ping pong balls are likely too fragile to withstand a tight-enough constriction, and thus the nitrocellulose would likely catch fire.
How to Light a Ping Pong Ball on Fire:
A ping pong ball is not a combustible material and will not light by itself. To set it on fire, you need to ignite the materials around it such as the lubricant of the surface of the ball. A match doesn’t produce enough heat or energy to cause an explosion – but if placed near a glowing ember, then the chemicals inside the ping pong ball will catch fire. All that is needed to create such an effect is a tightly sealed container with air or oxygen molecules, and then something like a strip of magnesium to provide heat. The magnesium can come from matches or even something like steel wool. It is the heat that you need to watch out for, not the flame itself.
A ping pong ball will only burn with bright intensity for about five seconds or less; then it will extinguish itself without an external source of oxygen (in other words, when it stops bouncing inside a sealed container.
How to Ignite a Ping Pong Ball
Anywhere that you have oxygen, you can ignite a ping pong ball. Once the ball is lit, it will burn with bright intensity for about five seconds or less; then it will extinguish itself without an external source of oxygen (in other words, when it stops bouncing inside a sealed container.
The magnesium strip can come from anything like Magnesium Fire Starter, Cigarette Lighter Refill Strips, etc. Just make sure you do not use the striker on its own; there must be magnesium.
Where to Find Magnesium Strips
You can find magnesium strips at any camping store like REI or online on eBay or Amazon for about $10.