2003
Christian Brothers University
Celebration of
National Chemistry Week

Thermite Process

The thermite process is used for field welding large pieces of steel, such as rail. It involes reacting aluminum powder with iron(III) oxide powder. The demonstration shown here was carried out in two, stacked, clay flower pots that had small holes in the bottom. The charge is placed in the top flower pot that has a piece of tissue paper covering the hole to keep the charge from flowing out until it burns. The charge is ignited with a propane torch. The white hot steel that flows from the bottom of the lower flower pot is about 5000 degrees!

The balanced chemical equation is:

2Al(s) + Fe2O3 (s) ---> 2Fe(l) + Al2O3 (s)

A small crowd awaits the beginning of the demo.
Mixing the aluminum (fuel) and iron(III) oxide (oxidizer).
Loading the charge in flower pot.
Igniting the charge with a propane torch.
The charge is ignited and beginning to smoke.
The charge is now flaming out the top of the flower pots.
White hot, liquid steel flowing from the bottom of the flower pots.
Red hot steel laying on the metal plate below the flower pots..

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