Rare Earth and Ignition

Auermetal was discovered by Carl Auer von Welsbach, an Austrian chemist in 1903. He found that Ferro cerium produces powerful sparks when scraped against a rough surface. Ferrocerium is a man-made metallic material which composed of iron and cerium. One of the applications of ferrocerium is the cigarette lighter flints. In modern times what is commonly called “flint” is actually ferrocerium or Auermetal. This metal is used in lighters as the initial ignition source for the fuel. The first factory of Auermetal production was opened in 1907.

Zippo_Detail

Cigarette lighter flint

 

Ferrocerium has the same function as the steel had in traditional fire stating by natural flint and steel. Lighters using ferrocerium, have a tube containing the ferrocerium and a disc or wheel against which the ferrocerium is. The wheel acts by friction upon the ferrocerium and it should be moved quickly enough to create heat by friction. The ignition temperature originated by cerium has the temperature between 150-180°C.

 

Recent ferrocerium metals produced mostly of iron with an alloy of rare earth metals called cerium mischmetal. The composition consist of approximately 50% cerium, 45% lanthanum, and small amounts of neodymium and praseodymium. This rare earth alloy is too soft to give good sparks, hence 20% iron oxide and 2% magnesium oxide are used to form a harder material. The composition is:

 

Iron: 19%
Cerium: 38%
Lanthanum: 22%
Neodymium: 4%
Praseodymium: 4%
Magnesium: 4%

 

Michmetals are used in Steel industry as an additive for steel treatment as well as in water equipment industry. They have lots of other applications as alloying elements, however traditional and most common use of michmetal is in lighter flints production.

 

References:

 

http://www.toledo-bend.com/VCL/articles/index.asp?request=lighterHistory

http://www.jxmetals.com/sdp/316680/4/cp-1271724/0.html

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