What Is a Thermite Reaction Used For?

The thermite reaction is used in metal burning applications such as welding. One example of this application is the fusing of rail tracks. It can also be used in the process of metal refining.

The thermite reaction is exothermic and burns at a rate much higher than standard oxidation. Thermite is composed of a metal oxide, fuel and a metal powder, often aluminum. The types and amounts of each component may vary according to the application and recipe. There are both iron and copper thermite types.

Iron thermite consists of iron (III) oxide or iron (II,III) oxide as the oxidizer. Copper thermite uses copper (I) oxide or copper (II) oxide. The thermite reaction can be hazardous due to the high heat involved in the reaction as well as the risk of flying pieces of molten iron during the process.