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Would wood melt if your raised it well above it's combustion point in outer space?

In order for wood to burn, you need oxygen, fuel, and heat. There is no oxygen in space, so how would the wood react? It couldn't combust (or could it?), so is it possible for it to melt? Or is there something in the chemical makeup that prevents that all together?

7 Answers

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  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The issue is not oxygen...

    The issue is whether carbon (the interesting element of wood) can exist at STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure) or at zero pressure (in space) as a liquid....

    The triple point of carbon is about 10,132 kPa

    For comparison, typical atmospheric pressure is 101.3 kPa (1 atm).

  • ?
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    There are two main parameters to consider here and these would be the bulk and dimensions of the wood in question and the proxinity to the Sun or other heat source. Rotation / non-rotation of the bulk is also a consideration.

    wood needs oxygen to combust so it wouldnt burn in space. The extreme heat of the sun at close quarters would certainly heat up the wood on the sunlit side, however the dark side would be incredibly cold and this cold side would absorb the heat energy very rapidly through the bulk of wood so that in fact the sunlit side would only get very hot at its immediate surface - about one atomic layer of thickness or more. Again this behaviour would depend upon the thickness and bulk of the wood. If the bulk and dimensions of the wood are great the heated layer would be thicker.

    Moreover if the block of wood is rotating this heat would be distributed evenly over the whole surface

    This l;ayer might evaporate, but would not melt since the atomic / molecular structure of wood does not permit melting by heat infusion. The extreme heat at this surface layer would be sufficient to break the atomic / molecular bonding of the wood and evaporation would result

    And dont forget out in space there are many more powerful ionising and atomically active radiations other than heat energy coming from the Sun. These include gamma rays, X-rays, high energy electrons, and protons, ultraviolet radiation, etc.. All of these will have a profound effect upon the struture and integrity of the wood.

    There are other substances which do not melt but which transition from a solid directly into gas, such as frozen carbon dioxide. this is called ''sublimation''.

    Source(s): physics, quantum physics...
  • ?
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    Wood is a complex organization of elements/molecules. At high temperatures, it does not melt but decomposes into different constituents.

    In fact, to make charcoal, they heat wood in an oven without oxygen. This breaks down the wood and drives off many of the volatile chemicals, but leaves the carbon behind. Later, this carbon can be burned in air. Heating wood in space would be very similar to charcoal production.

  • 9 years ago

    That's an interesting thought experiment...

    I don't think it would melt, melting occurs when you exceed the materials solidus temperature but remain below the gasses temperature. Surprising with enough heat you can turn any material into a gas, for some materials were talking sun like temperatures though. If wood melted we’d achieve this phenomenon on earth. Some materials do not have a liquid phase this has to do with its crystalline structure (where it's atoms are located with respect to each other)… materials science (applied chemistry) goes into more detail.

    Upon first exposure to the vaccum of space the porous wood would instantly be compacted, then once you super heat the material, say like instantly placing it close to the sun, I’d imagine it would instantly char while simultaneously disintegrating… it’d be pretty cool to see!

    Source(s): Engineer
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  • 9 years ago

    Some compounds would melt, others would become gaseous. And you don't have to do it in outer space. You can easily create a near total vacuum in the laboratory with a filter flask connected to a good quality vacuum pump. Don't try it with an ordinary flask or any other glass container though. It may implode.

    Source(s): biologist
  • 9 years ago

    That is how you get charcoal - heating wood in the absence of oxygen.

  • 9 years ago

    No, I think the wood would decompose to various chemicals, with carbon being one, and hydrogen gas being another.

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