What happens when we burn wood?« Back to Questions List

Any piece of wood consists of four things – water, volatile organic compounds, carbon and ash. Wood that is freshly cut contains lot of water. That which was cut a year or two ago will contain some water and the kiln-dried wood contains lot less water. One other chief component of wood is cellulose which is a carbohydrate (made of glucose). Wood also contains carbon, volatile organic compounds which are combustible in their cells.


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When we burn wood, at a temperature of about 300 degrees, the volatile hydrocarbons start burning. Fire produces a lot of heat energy. When the temperature gets high enough, volatile components burst into flame and smoke disappears. Then the volatile hydrocarbons vaporize into carbon dioxide and water. Hence the smoke that is produced becomes invisible to our eyes.


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When wood is heated to high temperatures (1000 degrees), charcoal is created. It is nothing but pure carbon. It combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, and what is left at the end of the fire is the ash. These are some non-burnable minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium present in the tree’s cells called ash.



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