match stick rocket background information: a small solid propellant rocket is made from a match and a piece of aluminum foil. the m
Match Stick Rocket
A small solid propellant rocket is made from a match and a piece of
The match stick rocket demonstrates Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion as
they relate to rocketry. Newton's third law states that for every
action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. The exhaust of the
fire products from the burning match (smoke and gas) is the "action"
and the movement of the rocket in the other direction is the
'reaction.' The action thrust is produced when the match burns in an
enclosed environment. The aluminum foil acts as a rocket combustion
chamber. Because the opening in the foil is small, pressure builds up
in the chamber that eventually escapes as a rapid stream of smoke and
In an interesting variation of the experiment, try making holes of
different diameters to let the combustion products out at different
rates. A larger opening permits the smoke and gas to escape before it
has time to build up much pressure. The escape of the products will be
slower than produced by a match stick rocket with a smaller opening.
Isaac Newton's second law states that the force or thrust of a rocket
is equal to the mass of the smoke and gas escaping the rocket times
how fast it escapes. In this experiment, the mass of the smoke and gas
is the same for both cases. The difference is in how fast it escapes.
Compare the distance traveled with the two match stick rockets.
To determine how different variables in the foil effects how far the
match stick will travel.
Small square of aluminum foil – around 7cm by 5 cm, doesn’t have
to be very exact – don’t spend much time measuring
Safety Goggles at all times during this activity
Take one match and add 2 match heads that have been previously cut
for you. Open the safety pin and place the sticky point end
against the match stick. Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around all
of this. Wrap the foil tightly – as tight as you can.
The safety pin is providing a hole or conduit for the gases to
pass through when the match head is lit.
Bend the paper clip to form a launch pad as shown in the diagrams.
Erect the match stick rocket on the pad. We will be doing this on
Before you ignite the assembly, remove the safety pin. Place the
assembly on the launch pad, your bend paperclip. Now - Ignite the
match by holding the butane lighter under the foil until its
combustion temperature is reached.
To collect data. It may in the form of diagrams with labels,
numberical data (hard data) or observations.
Note: It can be tricky to get the match to go off. Too big of an
opening in the foil and ________________.
Too small of a hole in the foil and ________________. Your foil piece
is pretty small. Technique is important here. Do the best you can.
Caution: Be sure the match rocket is pointed away from people or
burnable materials. it is recommended to have water or some other fire
extinguisher available. The foil head of the rocket will be very hot!
Answer each question by putting the correct Lab Rule:
Example: A student handled equipment without being instructed to.
Which lab rule did this student break? Answer: Do not touch or handle
equipment, chemicals, or other materials until you are instructed to.
A student with long hair catches his/her hair on fire on accident
and then did not report it to the teacher. Which 2 lab rules did
this student break?
A student goes into the storage room to get more matches without
permission and then begins the lab without completely reading the
directions. Which 2 rules did this student break?
A student grabbed the hot end of the aluminum foil and burned
his/her hand and then did not report it to the teacher. Which 2
rules did this student break?
A student that was wearing baggy clothes, was being distracting to
the other students. Which 2 rules did this student break?
A student left his lit candle unattended during the lab and then
did not clean his lab area. Which 2 rules did he break?
After the experiment, a student did not wash her hands and was
also eating a piece of pizza. What 2 rules did this student break?
A student threw his partially lit matchstick rocket in the
trashcan, caught the trashcan on fire, didn’t know where the fire
extinguisher was, almost burned down the building, and was scared
of getting suspended so did not tell the teacher. Which 2 rules
did this student break?
A student got a matchstick rocket lodged in his eye, ran around
screaming in pain, and had no idea where the eyewash was. Later
the eye had to be removed! What 2 rules did this student break?
A student took his match stick and soaked it in alcohol before
creating a match stick rocket. Although he made a rocket that went
really far, what 1 rule did he break?
A student placed the aluminum foil on the wrong end of his/her
matchstick and did not know why the rocket wouldn’t work. What 1
rule would have helped him?