Candle light comes from millions of tiny burning diamonds

Chemistry Professor Wuzong Zhou at the University of St. Andrews decided to unravel the mystery of candle light after a challenge from another scientist.

"A colleague at another university said to me: 'Of course no-one knows what a candle flame is actually made of,'" said Zhou in a news release from the university.

"I told him I believed science could explain everything eventually, so I decided to find out."

Zhou deployed a new sampling technique. While the bottom of the flame contained expected hydrocarbon molecules, Zhou discovered that the middle of the flame contained both diamond nanoparticles and fullerenic particles. There was also graphitic and amorphous carbon, as well.

About 1.5 million diamond nanoparticles are created every second a candle burns.

"Unfortunately the diamond particles are burned away in the process, and converted into carbon dioxide, but this will change the way we view a candle flame forever," said Zhou.

Zhou believes the insight could further diamond research.