Pyrophoricity: How Does It Work?

Chemistry, Physics
[caption id="attachment_3651" align="alignright" width="440"] Pyrophoric ferro-cerium striker[/caption] A substance exhibiting pyrophoricity (including certain metals) reacts quickly with oxygen, producing heat, and bursting into flames. Alkali metals are pyrophoric, but there are other pyrophoric metals as well, given the proper conditions. Otherwise, they are stable and may be put to a number of uses without fear of bursting into flame. The overall principle is a simple one: metals are electropositive. Oxygen is electronegative. Almost all metals will react with oxygen to some extent. As a metal oxidizes, the reaction releases a little heat energy. If the heat cannot dissipate, it builds up. This speeds further oxidation, increasing the heat yet more. The metal may burst into flames. Those “Other” Metals Some alkaline earth metals such as calcium, and a few other…
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