How does a match stick work
A match stick is in the form of a small stick of wood or strip of cardboard with solidified mixture of chemicals at one end that are highly inflammable. The head of the match is usually made of sulfur(sometimes antimony III sulfide), red phosphorus(red sulfur in major proportion and red phosphorus in trace quantities), glass powder, and an oxidizing agent(usually potassium chlorate). An oxidizing agent has the function of keeping the flame lit. Oxygen is a common oxidizing agent which is essential to keep the flame lit.

There are usually two types of matchsticks available – strike anywhere watches, which can be ignited by striking the matchstick on any rough surface and safety matches which can only be ignited by striking special surfaces containing certain chemicals. In the case of a safety match, chemicals such as phosphorus is provided on the striking surface, while in the case of a strike anywhere match, phosphorus is provided within  the head of the matchstick.

When a matchstick is struck against the rough surface, the glass powder generates heat which causes the conversion of a small amount of red phosphorus to white phosphorus, which readily catches fire in air and during this process decomposes potassium chlorate and liberats oxygen. This combustion of phosphorus is exothermic and thus the sulfur contained in the head catches fire in the presence of atmospheric oxygen and sulfur dioxide is produced. This fire in turn causes the wood of the matchstick to catch fire.


REFERENCE


[1] http://www.pa.msu.edu/sciencet/ask_st/092596.html
[2] http://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101011233837AA0U3w9
[3] http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/about-this-show/how-matches-work.htm
[4] http://www.hindu.com/seta/2006/04/20/stories/2006042004291700.htm
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5] http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/f/howmatcheswork.htm