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Friction Burn

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Ever rub your hands together and notice that they warm up? That's friction, the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and/or material elements sliding against each other. Friction creates heat which can create a small flame if on a dry surface.

In fiction however, particularly animation, friction can cause one to burst into flames. This is usually Played for Laughs and is often caused by a character's own stupidity. In superhero fiction, characters with Super Strength might do this. One of the Required Secondary Powers of characters with Super Speed must be dedicated to avoid this. This trope may also be in effect when someone is using a Finger Snap Lighter, or when Burning Rubber.


Compare Playing with Fire, when this trope is weaponized. Contrast Frictionless Reentry, which is the opposite of this trope. Related to Space Friction.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In One Piece:
    • This is how Sanji activates his Diable Jambe technique, by spinning in place at such a high speed the leg he's spinning on ignites.
    • Also, this is supposedly how Hannyabal activates his Hannya Carnival, Blazing Hell Wheel attack.
    • This may also be how Zoro's Hiryu Kaen attack works.
  • In Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts, Kouta is always trying to take pictures of the girls, always searching for a glorious Panty Shot. When he senses the opportunity to get a shot from Mizuki, he starts sliding all around her on the floor, trying to get the perfect angle. He sets himself on fire from the friction, then dowses himself with his own blood from the Nosebleed that followed afterward.
  • Invoked in Rozen Maiden whenever Micchan gets a bout of Cuteness Proximity dressing up Kanaria and rubs her cheeks against hers. Worse for Kanaria, since, being a doll, she's made of quite flammable material and while she never actually bursts into flames, it's clearly not comfortable for her.
  • In Durarara!!: Mikado Ryugamine uses the internet so epically that his mouse catches on fire from the friction.
  • In Fairy Tail, the Jiggle Butt Gang escape from the Zentopia dungeons by using this to light their asses on fire... It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.
  • Invoked in GUNNM. In her previous life, Alita had been sentenced to death by Atmospheric Exposure - meaning she was tossed out an airlock in a decaying orbit to burn up in reentry.
  • In the finale of Kill la Kill, Senketsu performs a Heroic Sacrifice by shielding Ryuko from the heat of reentry using his own body and burns up in the process.
  • Mega Man Megamix: Shadow Man kills Neptune by using him as a Human Shield against atmospheric reentry, letting his enemy get burned up by the friction whilst shielding himself. He tries to do it to Mercury too, but Mercury uses his melting powers to protect himself from the heat and escape.

    Fan Works 
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl's super-speed when she flies out of the planet causes the air to burst into flames around her. Being invulnerable, she ignores the effect.
    The air friction formed a corona of fire around her as she streaked invisibly through the skies. She ignored it.

  • When the crew of Apollo 13 are preparing to reenter Earth's atmosphere, the possibility of reentry friction incinerating them in the atmosphere becomes an Oh, Crap! moment.
    Captain Jim Lovell: [Inspecting the jettisoned Service Module] "One whole side of the spacecraft is missing. Right by the high gain antenna, a whole panel is blown out. Right up...right up to our heat shield."

    Video Games 
  • As in real life, Kerbal Space Program applies reentry friction to a vessel entering atmosphere at orbital speeds. Heat shields are available for capsules and other craft, while spaceplane parts naturally resist heating. Proper flying technique is also required in order to gain the maximum protection from any shielding. Craft can and will overheat and explode catastrophically if improperly entered and/or insufficiently protected.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, Buttercup created a fireball by rubbing her hands together rapidly and threw it at a monster.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter drank Red Bull, giving him a rush of energy, and then milked a cow so rapidly, its udder burst into flames. In the same scene Chris, who also drank Red Bull, was seen running around screaming, pantsless and his groin ablaze.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball gives us an example where Gumball is trying to start a fire through the friction & stick method. He ends up setting his hands on fire, and while he's running around screaming in pain, the wood he was trying to ignite catches on fire a few moments later. Cue the Rain.
    • He also caught on fire from air friction when going down a hill too fast, while the friction with the ground tore the bike apart.
  • In Dexter's Laboratory, when Dexter gives himself Super Speed to go through his whole daily routine in 1 minute he accidentally lights his homework on fire from the friction (and called it by the trope name at that).
  • In The Proud Family, Oscar sets his hand on fire while trying to snap. A few seconds prior, a kid warned him about trying to snap because his skin was so dry.
    • Similar, while in the middle of a Macho Disaster Expedition he remember how his mother always said his ankles were so ashy they could start a fire, so he tries it—and it works!
  • On the Roger Rabbit Short "Roller Coaster Rabbit", Roger's feet catch fire while skidding down a roller coaster track.
  • On the short-lived superhero spoof series The Ripping Friends, the main characters accidentally make Frictor, a malevolent friction elemental. He can cause friction burns strong enough to disintegrate anything (or anyone) in his way, though Frictor mainly uses his control over friction for dumb pranks.
  • Steven Universe: One thing Peridot finds out about Jasper while trying to prove that the latter is inferior to Amethyst is that she melted the rock around her when she emerged.
  • I Am Weasel: In "The Magnificent Motorbikini", Baboon forgets to put brakes on the titular vehicle, so he tries to stop it "the old-fashioned way" with his feet, which end up bursting into flame.

    Real Life 
  • Ever wonder what those black tiles on the bottom of the Space Shuttle Orbiter were? Those are special heat-resistant ceramic tiles designed to protect the astronauts and vehicle. After all, this trope is played deadly straight when moving through Earth's atmosphere at orbital velocities. This protection requirement applies to every single reentry vehicle in the entire history of spaceflight, as temperatures may reach more than twice the ones of the Sun's surface.


Video Example(s):


Baboon's "Old-Fashioned" Brakes

I. R. Baboon tries to stop the "motorbikini", with fiery results.

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