Today, boys and girls, we’re going to learn how to make thermite. Let’s get something straight: thermite is not an explosive. It’s just some powder that burns REALLY (4500 degrees Fahrenheit) hot. Thermite was originally discovered in 1893 and found to be an excellent welding tool.
Today, it’s primarily used by the railway industry to quickly conduct repairs on tracks where it would be inconvenient to have complicated welding equipment. It’s also used by the military to sabotage enemy equipment, most famously artillery pieces where a thermite grenade would be inserted into the breech so that it’s welded shut and the weapon can not be loaded.
When using thermite you need to keep some safety considerations in mind: it’s hot and it’s bright. It actually emits so much UV light that it can cause eye damage if you’re not taking the proper precautions (either don’t look at it or use a welding mask–no, sunglasses won’t cut it).
It also shoots molten iron out in every direction, so you not only need to make sure any people (including yourself) present are sufficiently far away but you also need to make sure nothing flammable is anywhere near it–keep in mind that the molten iron can burn through metal containers (like gas cans) and ignite anything inside.
I’ve got videos I want to show you: the first one shows you how to make thermite if you order the necessary ingredients (I show you where you can order them online), which are really easy to get ahold of (all you need is aluminum powder, some rust, and a sparkler or magnesium ribbon), and the second one shows you how to make thermite completely from scratch (he literally makes his own rust and aluminum powder, etc.). Alright, here we go:
How to make thermite from purchased materials
Like I said, you just need the following (links go to Amazon and eBay where you can order everything, no problem):
- Iron (III) Oxide (1/2 kilogram)
- Aluminum Powder – didn’t see it on Amazon so I linked to the search results for it on eBay: there’s a BUNCH of it on there, pretty cheap too (about $8-10 a pound it seems)
- Magnesium Ribbon(you can also use a sparkler)
How to make thermite entirely from scratch (homemade materials)
This dude really goes all out: he makes iron oxide by rusting a couple of nails with some salt water and electricity and he makes aluminum powder by grinding a chunk of aluminum, then uses his homemade thermite to burn through a Master padlock, very impressive:
Additional Resources and Further Reading
If you’re really interested in this and want to learn what the pros know I highly recommend Explosives Engineering–it’s expensive but it’s the best (I believe thermite is also mentioned in the infamous The Anarchist Cookbook, by the way if you’re interested). Also, you can download this episode of Mythbusters called “Thermite vs. Ice” where they test the myth that you can explode a block of ice with thermite and then use a couple hundred pounds of the stuff to cut a car in half, VERY cool.
This is an excellent explanation of the processes occurring during a thermite reaction with plenty of formulas and equations (and a few cool pictures, too).
Here’s a really short and simple article on making thermite with some nifty additional places to get the ingredients you need.