MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Flame Test

Flame Test

Sylvia Hoffstrom
Cretin-Derham Hall
550 So. Albert St.
St. Paul MN 55116

Based on activity - Introductory Physical Science
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In this physical science experiment, students investigate the release of energy by observing the color of light produced when salts are heated in the flame of a burner. Students will identify the metal ion of the substance by the color emitted.

Learning Goals

The activity is designed for students to observe the color of light. The students will define energy levels, spectrum, ions, metals and non metals

Context for Use

This is a lab for one class period.
Students should have the concept of atomic theory in terms of energy levels.
Student should also know the difference between metals and nonmetals.

Subject: Chemistry:General Chemistry:Atomic Structure
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

Using a nichrome wire loop students will test several sets of salts. Students will clean the nichrome wire with hydrochloric acid before testing salt. Student will dip the nichrome wire into salt and hold the wire in the center of a burner flame to observe color. This lab is done as part of the periodic table/atomic theory unit.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Prepare salt solutions instead of giving students solids. Have students insert wooden splints into solutions (~2 minutes). After the two minutes have students hold splints over the flame of a burner. This will still provide a flame color for students to assess but will decrease contamination.


Students will answer questions based on observations of the lab. Each group will also be given an unknown salt solution to identify the ion(s)present based on the data collected in the lab.


9-12 II. A4 use periodic table to identify regions, families, groups and periods.
9-12 II. A9 the student will differentiate between an element and a compound.

References and Resources