A pyrophoric substance will ignite spontaneously; that is, its
autoignition temperatureis below room temperature. Examples are iron sulfideand many reactive metalsincluding uranium, when powdered or sliced thinly. Pyrophoric materials are often water reactiveas well and will ignite when they contact water or humidair. They can be handled safely in atmospheres of argonor (with few exceptions) nitrogen. Most pyrophoric fires should be extinguished with a Class D fire extinguisherfor burning metals.
The creation of
sparks from metals is based on the pyrophoricity of small metal particles. This can be useful, including: the sparking mechanisms in lighters and various toys, using ferrocerium; starting fires without matches, using a firesteel; the flintlockmechanism in firearms; and spark testing metals.
afe handling of pyrophoric materials
Small amounts of pyrophoric liquids are often supplied in a glass bottle with a
PTFElined septum. Larger amounts are supplied in metal tanks similar to gas cylinders, designed so a needle can fit through the valve opening. A syringe, carefully dried and flushed of air with an inert gas, is used to extract the liquid from its container.
Pyrophoric solids require the use of a sealed glove box flushed with inert gas. Glove boxes are expensive, and require maintenance. Thus, many pyrophoric solids are sold as solutions, or dispersions in mineral oil or lighter hydrocarbon solvents. Mildly pyrophoric solids (such as
lithium aluminium hydrideand sodium hydride) can be handled in the air for brief periods of time, but the containers must be flushed with inert gas before storage.
Small amounts of pyrophoric materials and empty containers must be disposed of carefully, by quenching the residue. Less reactive substances can be disposed of by diluting heavily with an unreactive solvent like
hexane, placing the container in a cooling bath, and adding water dropwise. More reactive substances can be quenched by slowly adding the dilute solution to dry ice, then adding a mildly reactive substance, which does not freeze in dry ice, to the mixture (wet diethyl ether, acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and methanolare often used)
List of pyrophoric materials
* Finely divided metals (
magnesium, calcium, zirconium, uranium, titanium, bismuth)
Alkali metals ( sodium, potassium)
hydrides or nonmetal hydrides ( germane, diborane, sodium hydride, lithium aluminium hydride, uranium trihydride)
* Grignard reagents (compounds of the form RMgX)
* Partially or fully
alkylated derivatives of metal and nonmetal hydrides (diethylaluminium hydride, trimethylaluminium, butyllithium, triethylboron)
Uraniumis pyrophoric, as shown by the vaporization of depleted uraniumpenetrator rounds into burning dust upon impact with their targets. In finely divided form it is readily ignitable, and uranium scrap from machining operations is subject to spontaneous ignition. [ [http://hss.energy.gov/NuclearSafety/techstds/standard/hdbk1081/hbk1081e.html#ZZ30 DOE | Office of Health, Safety and Security | Nuclear Safety and Environment ] ]
Alkylated metal alkoxides or nonmetal halides(diethylethoxyaluminium, dichloro(methyl)silane)
carbonyls ( dicobalt octacarbonyl, nickel carbonyl)
hydrogenation catalystssuch as Raney nickel(especially hazardous because of the adsorbed hydrogen)
* Copper fuel cell catalysts, e.g., Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 [C.W. Corti et al. / Applied Catalysis A: General 291 (2005) 257]
Phosphorus(white, or yellow)
Plutonium: several compounds are pyrophoric, and it causes some of the most serious fires occurring in United States Department of Energyfacilities. [ [http://hss.energy.gov/NuclearSafety/techstds/standard/hdbk1081/hbk1081d.html#ZZ281 DOE | Office of Health, Safety and Security | Nuclear Safety and Environment ] ]
* Methanetellurol (CH3TeH)
Iron Sulfide: often encountered in oil and gas facilities where corrosion products in steel plant equipment can ignite if exposed to air.
Metalorganicsof main group metals (e.g. aluminium, gallium, indium, zincand cadmiumetc.)
*US Dept. of Energy Handbook, [http://hss.energy.gov/NuclearSafety/techstds/standard/hdbk1081/hbk1081.html "Primer on Spontaneous Heating and Pyrophoricity"]
* [http://safety.science.tamu.edu/pyrophorics.html List of pyrophoric materials]
* [http://www.doctorfire.com/Pyrophoric.html Larger list of pyrophoric materials]
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