Fire has fascinated people for centuries. Although it’s no longer a mystery, fire remains one of the top scientific marvels. Fire is not only interesting, but has seemingly endless uses. It can be used directly for heat through camp fires, fire pits, and bonfires. Fire can also be used to power equipment that requires energy like hot tubs, furnaces, and even generators.
While we’ve had plenty of time to figure out all the ways to use fire, the science behind fiery flames is nothing short of amazing.
Fire is electromagnetic energy
When you think of electromagnetic energy, you might think of cellphones, routers, and the various types of radiation emitted from the sun. However, the entire universe is electromagnetic by nature, including fire.
Fire’s electromagnetic properties are often visible. As a log burns in a wood stove, for example, you can see the magnetic flux distributing the heat as rectangles appear burned into the wood evenly. You can also see fire’s electromagnetic properties if you watch the flames.
The majority of a fire appears red, which is the expression of magnetic red-shift. While many believe that blue flames are caused by high oxygen, that’s not the whole picture. Being electromagnetic, blue flames are the expression of the blue-shift observed in electromagnetism. The reason blue flames are hotter is because those blue flames are the expression of increased density.
A visible blue-shift and red-shift aren’t the only interesting electromagnetic properties we get from fire. Fire is also a great source of infrared heat.
Fire produces far infrared (IR) heat
Infrared heat is essential to life. Infrared heat is different from what’s generated by a central HVAC system and most space heaters. While you can get infrared space heaters, they pale in comparison to infrared heat produced by fire. Space heaters that use convection only heat up the air around you and the warmth doesn’t get absorbed by your body.
On the other hand, far infrared heat penetrates the skin deeply and sticks to your clothes and body, producing true warmth. It heats you up rather than simply heating the surrounding air. Far infrared heat is the reason the sun feels amazing hitting your body. It’s the same feeling you get when sitting in front of a roaring campfire or a wood stove.
This deep impact of infrared heat is why cats and dogs will spend hours lying in the sun and in front of a fire.
Infrared heat is also used in healthcare settings to relieve pain. There are a variety of devices on the market that produce IR heat, including handheld wands, dry saunas, and devices that target specific parts of the body for extended periods of time.
Far infrared heat is radiant heat
Perhaps the most interesting thing about infrared heat is that you can use it to thoroughly heat your home in a way that minimizes heat loss and reduces reliance on electricity. For example, using a wood stove as your primary heat source will keep you warmer than using an electric HVAC system. With the right setup, the fire burning in your wood stove will produce heat that will warm everything in the room.
You can take advantage of the way IR heat works by stacking brick and soapstone around the hearth to absorb the heat. Both brick and soapstone will hold and release the heat into the room slowly. Soapstone will release heat much slower than brick, and that’s why many people get a wood stove lined with soapstone. Soapstone can release heat for anywhere between 8-24 hours.
With a radiant floor heating system, you can keep your home nice and toasty in the winter just by burning wood. Fire is simply amazing.
Fire is fascinating
Although there are some aspects of fire that haven’t yet been explained by modern science, it’s a fascinating phenomenon. In addition to being electromagnetic and providing the ultimate warmth, it’s also primal.
Some have said that the fascination with fire is caused by a lack of experience with fire early in life. However, even those who have a lifetime of experience will flock to a fire pit the moment the fire is burning. Regardless of why people are drawn to fire, there’s no denying that flames are both fun and mesmerizing to watch.