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A thermal lance, thermic lance, oxygen lance, or burning bar is a tool that heats and melts iron in the presence of pressurized oxygen to create the very high temperatures required for cutting. It consists of a long iron tube packed with iron rods, sometimes mixed with aluminium or magnesium rods to increase the heat output. One end of the tube is placed in a holder and oxygen is fed through the tube.
The far end of the tube is pre-heated and lit by an oxyacetylene torch. An intense stream of molten iron is produced at the workpiece end and can be used to cut rapidly through thick materials including steel and concrete. The tube is consumed, so every few minutes the operator shuts off the oxygen, discards the remaining stub of a lance tube and starts using a new one.
Although often used as a heavy duty demolition tool, the thermic lance can also be used to remove seized axles of heavy machinery without damaging the bearings or axle housing. This technique is most often used on the pins and axles of large equipment such as cranes, ships, bridges and sluice-gates.
The temperature at which a thermal lance operates varies depending on the environment. Kosanke gives the maximum temperature to be 4,770 K (4,500 °C), while Haorong calculates it to be 3,000 K (2,730 °C).
Popular misconceptions 
Popular depictions of thermal lances sometimes exaggerate their capabilities. In the movie The Score Nick Wells (played by Robert De Niro) uses a thermal lance to cut a hole in the top of a safe, to avoid the safe's glass relocker device. A similar device was used in Stolen by Nicolas Cage's character.
MythBusters tested the capabilities of the thermal lance and discovered opening a modern safe with a thermal lance takes far longer than depicted in popular accounts. The intense heat also destroyed the items inside the vault. The MythBusters concluded that using a thermal lance for safe-cracking is plausible, but impractical.
There are examples in science fiction of "thermic lance" or "thermal lance" being used to mean a type of fictional energy weapon or melee weapon (for example at this link, with image, in the Fallout: New Vegas videogame scenario).
The most accurate depiction of a Thermal Lance in film is in the James Caan movie "Thief"(1981). In which a real oxygen lance was used to cut a doorway through a real vault door. The material being stolen was diamonds, which would likely be able to withstand the heat of the process. The only questionable inaccuracies are the lack of enough oxygen bottles, and breathing gear.
See also 
- LaGuardia, Thomas S. (2004). "Chapter 16.3: Characterization; Description of Select Technologies". The Decommissioning Handbook. New York: ASME Press. pp. 4‐46. ISBN 978-0-89448-041-6.
- Kosanke, B. J.; Sturman, B.; Kosanke, K.; von Maltitz, I.; Shimizu, T.; Wilson, M. A.; Kubota, N.; Jennings-White, C. et al. (2004). Pyrotechnic Chemistry. Journal of Pyrotechnics. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-889526-15-7.
- Wang, Haorong; Hlavacek, Vladimir; Pranda, Pavol (2004). "Model Analysis of Thermal Lance Combustion". Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 43 (16): 4703. doi:10.1021/ie030729r.
- "Crimes and Myth-demeanors 2". MythBusters. Season 2006. Episode 59. August 23, 2006. Discovery Channel.