Black snakes are popular firework novelties that are fun to light, sit back and watch “slither” around. Use a punk or a lighter to ignite the black snake, the resulting effect is a long black tube of fragile ash that “snakes” as it grows longer and longer. Because these items are considered firework novelties in most states, snakes don’t have any fire or explosion, only a little bit of smoke. Firework black snakes (sometimes called glow worms) can be bought from nearly any firework vendor or you can try your hand at making your own. It’s not hard at all, in fact, it’s a great science experiment for you and your kids or students
You can make black snakes from common ingredients found in your kitchen, primarily baking soda and sugar plus alcohol, lighter fuel or other fuel. To make the snakes, mix 4 parts of powdered sugar (a fine sugar sometimes called confectioner’s sugar) with 1 part baking soda until evenly combined. Get a rimmed tray and fill it up with play box sand; this will be the basis of your black snack molds. Make little mounds of sand and then use a finger to make a depression in the middle of the sand. Fill this depression with fuel to get it wet and then add a little of the sugar-baking soda mixture. Use a lighter to ignite the materials and create the desired reaction – a “snake” of puffing ashes caused by the carbon dioxide reacting with the carbonate.
The reason why this project works is based on chemistry 101. The sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) breaks down into sodium carbonate, water vapor and carbon dioxide gas while the heating sugar in oxygen makes water vapor and carbon dioxide gas. If a high-grade alcohol is used as the fuel, the smoke release when lit is not toxic at all. Making black snakes is a great project to undertake with the kids. Not only is it hands-on fun to mix up the ingredients, but the lighting and watching of the snakes are sure to illicit “ooooohs, “ “ahhhs,” and maybe even “that’s so gross, it’s cool.” If you’d like to see how homemade black snakes fare to commercial made black snakes, just set ‘em up side by side and watch all the extruding excitement.