Autoignition temperature

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The autoignition temperature or kindling point of a substance is the lowest temperature at which it will spontaneously ignite in a normal atmosphere without an external source of ignition, such as a flame or spark. This temperature is required to supply the activation energy needed for combustion. The temperature at which a chemical will ignite decreases as the pressure or oxygen concentration increases. It is usually applied to a combustible fuel mixture.

Autoignition temperatures of liquid chemicals are typically measured using a 500 mL flask placed in a temperature controlled oven in accordance with the procedure described in ASTM E659.[1]

When measured for plastics, autoignition temperature can also be measured under elevated pressure and at 100% oxygen concentration. The resulting value is used as a predictor of viability for high-oxygen service. The main testing standard for this is ASTM G72.[2]

Autoignition equation[edit]

The time t_{ig}\, it takes for a material to reach its autoignition temperature T_{ig}\, when exposed to a heat flux q''\, is given by the following equation

t_{ig} = \left ( \frac{\pi}{4} \right ) \left (k \rho c \right )\left [ \frac{T_{ig}-T_{o}}{q''} \right]^2 [3]

where k = thermal conductivity (W/(m·K)), ρ = density (kg/m³), and c = specific heat capacity (J/(kg·K)) of the material of interest.  T_{o}\, is the temperature, in Kelvin, the material starts at (or the temperature of the bulk material), and q''\, is the heat flux (W/m²) incident to the material.

Autoignition point of selected substances[edit]

Temperatures vary widely in the literature and should only be used as estimates. Factors which may cause variation include partial pressure of oxygen, altitude, humidity, and amount of time required for ignition. Generally the auto-ignition temperature for hydrocarbon/air mixtures decreases with increasing molecular weight and increasing chain length. The auto-ignition temperature is also higher for branched-chain hydrocarbons than for straight-chain hydrocarbons.[4]

Substance Autoignition (°C)[5] Autoignition (°F)[5] Note
Triethylborane 2998800000000000000−20 °C 2998800000000000000−4 °F
Silane 700121000000000000021 °C 700121000000000000070 °F or below
White phosphorus 700134000000000000034 °C 700134000000000000093 °F on contact with an organic substance, melts otherwise
Carbon disulfide 700190000000000000090 °C 7001900000000000000194 °F
Diethyl ether 7002160000000000000160 °C 7002160000000000000320 °F [6]
Gasoline (Petrol) 7002247000000000000247–280 °C 7002247000000000000477–536 °F [7]
Ethanol 7002363000000000000363 °C 7002363000000000000685 °F [7]
Diesel or Jet A-1 7002399000000000000399 °C 7002399000000000000750 °F [8] or below
Butane 7002405000000000000405 °C 7002405000000000000761 °F [9]
Paper 7002218000000000000218–246 °C 7002218000000000000424–475 °F [10][8]
Leather / Parchment 7002200000000000000200–212 °C 7002200000000000000392–414 °F [8][11]
Magnesium 7002473000000000000473 °C 7002473000000000000883 °F
Hydrogen 7002536000000000000536 °C 7002536000000000000997 °F [12]

For paper, there is considerable variation between sources, mainly because there are many physical variables over different kinds of paper, like thickness, density and composition; in addition, it takes longer for the combustion of paper to start at lower temperatures,[13] see Fahrenheit 451.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E659 – 78 (Reapproved 2000), "Standard Test Method for Autoignition Temperature of Liquid Chemicals", ASTM, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959
  2. ^ S. Grynko, "Material Properties Explained" (2012), ISBN 1-4700-7991-7, p. 46.
  3. ^ Principles of Fire Behavior. ISBN 0-8273-7732-0. 1998.
  4. ^ Zabetakis, M.G. (1965), Flammability characteristics of combustible gases and vapours, U.S. Department of Mines, Bulletin 627.
  5. ^ a b Under standard conditions for pressure.
  6. ^ "Diethyl Ether - Safety Properties". Wolfram|Alpha. 
  7. ^ a b Fuels and Chemicals - Autoignition Temperatures, 
  8. ^ a b c Cafe, Tony. "PHYSICAL CONSTANTS FOR INVESTIGATORS". TC Forensic P/L. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Butane - Safety Properties". Wolfram|Alpha. 
  10. ^ Tony Cafe. "Physical Constants for Investigators". Journal of Australian Fire Investigators.  (Reproduced from "Firepoint" magazine)
  11. ^ "Flammability and flame retardancy of leather". Leather International / Global Trade Media. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "Hydrogen - Safety Properties". Wolfram|Alpha. 
  13. ^ Forest Products Laboratory (1964). "Ignition and charring temperatures of wood". Forest Service U. S. Department of Agriculture. 

External links[edit]