How Goethe lit a fire, and the first fuel cell

Doebereiner lighter © UniCat / Fanni Daruny Sypaseuth
Doebereiner lighter © UniCat / Martin Penno
Demonstration of the first fuel cell © UniCat / Linyu
Replica of the first fuel cell © TU Berlin / Ulrich Dahl

Fire without matches

How can you light a fire without matches? With chemistry and catalysis! Even before the invention of the match, chemist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner and the celebrated poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lit fires using catalysis. This was the basis for the first fuel cell, 16 years later.

We will show you how to replicate a Döbereiner lighter and explain how it works. Please also take a look at a replica of the experiment from 1839 that led to the first fuel cells!

House of Chemistry (Haus der Chemie), foyer

17:00 – midnight

15 min, on-going

Suitable for children 6 years old and older, but not specifically geared towards children 

Type of event:
Demonstration, experiment

Wheelchair accessible