Cerium flint

Sparks appear from friction of metal on sandpaper

Scientific name: Pyrophoric properties of cerium


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Wear eye protection goggles.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

6 Ce + 5 O2 → 2 Ce2O3*CeO2


  1. Cerium

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Take a piece of metal cerium.
  2. Quickly move this piece on the surface of sandpaper.
  3. Observe sparks.

Scientific background

Cerium powder is formed by friction of the sandpaper. The particulate cerium is pyrophoric, it ignites spontaneously in air. The contact surface of the metal with oxygen increases during grinding. Cerium atoms located at the surface of the particle combine with oxygen in the air and are oxidized. The reaction is exothermic, some of the energy is transmitted to the neighboring particles of cerium, they pass into the excited state, and the reaction rate with oxygen increases.

This does not occur with the unground piece of cerium because of the distribution of heat energy in a large volume of material and the inability of cerium atoms to react with oxygen, which are not in contact with air.


Published on 15 May 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst