Thermite is a compound made of a metal oxide (commonly iron oxide) and a metal powder (aluminum) that produces a thermite reaction. A thermite reaction is not explosive when ignited, but instead creates a rapid burst of very high temperature (up to 2480 °C/4,500 °F) that can be focused on a specific area. This reaction was discovered by German chemist Hans Goldschmidt in 1893 and the first commercial use of thermite occurred just 6 years later. Let’s take a look at some of the most common applications of thermite.
Uses of Thermite
Thermite is often used to weld or cut through metal. This technique is most often used on railroad and tram tracks, because the welding or cutting can be completed without the need to remove the tracks or use heavy machinery. (video below)
Thermite is also be used to purify the ores of some metals. When used in this way it is called the thermite process or aluminothermic reaction.
Copper thermite is used to weld thick copper wires together. This is commonly used in the telecommunications and electrical industries.
Thermite hand grenades and charges are used by the military to destroy the supplies and equipment of the enemy. Since World War II thermite granades have also used for incapacitating artillery. They are commonly used for this purpose because they are silent and do not require explosive charges. Thermite can also used to destroy equipment to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Thermite is also used in incendiary bombs, which are bombs that are designed to start fires.
The following video shows rail workers welding a railway track with thermite.