Iron thermite

The formation of melt burns everything in its path

Scientific name: Displacement of iron from an oxide by aluminum at high temperature

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Safety

Wear eye protection goggles. Flammable! Use a fire-resistant workplace. Use a hood or carry out the experiment outdoors away from flammable objects. Maximum protection the place of the reaction.

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

Reaction formula

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → 2 Fe + Al2O3

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Mix together the iron(III) oxide and aluminum powder in a ratio of 80:27 by weight. Take 16 g of ferric oxide and 5.4 g of aluminum powder. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Place the resulting mixture into a strong container such as a flowerpot.
  3. Fix the pot in a stand, put several layers of iron underneath it and put a fireproof bottom for whole system such as a concrete block.
  4. Insert the magnesium stripe into the reaction mixture and ignite.
  5. Watch the formation of the melt flowing through the metal sheets.

Scientific background

Thermite is widely used in both civil and military purposes. Aluminum is a more active metal than iron and stands in the electrochemical series of metals activity more left. Due to this fact, aluminum may reduce iron from iron compounds, including oxide, and forms a more stable compound – aluminium oxide. The difference in the strength of the bond Fe-O and Al-O is so great that a large amount of heat is released during the reaction, which can melt the resulting iron. In turn, iron plates are destroyed by the melt.

The reaction takes place in solid phase, it has very high activation energy, and therefore it's necessary to use a burning magnesium stripe as an initiator.

Danger:
Coolness:
Difficulty:

Published on 15 May 2015

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