How Lighters Work?

What is a Lighter? When was it Invented? What are the different Types of Lighters?
how lighters work

A lighter is a piece of everyday equipment that is used for various different purposes like to ignite a fire, heat a gas stove, a barbeque station, or more commonly a cigarette. If you are wondering how lighters work, this article will help you gain a better understanding of lighters.

1. What is a Lighter?

A lighter is a small, portable device that ignites flames with a single or sometimes multiple flicks of a wheel or a nozzle. It has a metallic and sometimes, plastic container that contains flammable liquid or some form of compressed gas inside. (See What is the Color of Fire?)

2. What are its Components?

Lighter may vary from piece to piece but general components remain the same. Flint wheel is a part of disposable lighters which is used as a safety precaution. This wheel is turned down to hit the lever, which after you hold down, creates pressure in the tube containing flammable gas or fluid. This pressure creates the required amount of heat and gas. All of this is enclosed in a plastic or metallic container, keeping in mind, the conduction of heat. (See What is Metal Made of?)

3. When was it Invented?

In 1823, Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner, a German chemist, invented the very first lighter called Döbereiner’s Lamp. His invention was a flamethrower that looked more like something from science fiction movies than modern-day lighters. Widely referred to as the Tinderbox, or Feuerzeug, it was exceptionally adored in the 1820s.

  • The bizarre-looking device used zinc & dilute sulfuric acid to produce flammable hydrogen.
  • A valve was lifted in unison, firing hydrogen towards a platinum catalyst known as the platinum sponge.
  • This reacted with the atmospheric oxygen, heating and igniting the platinum catalyst to produce hydrogen which then ignited into a steady flame.

However, because of the complicated design, it proved to be very difficult and dangerous to use. The next segment will cover how lighters work! (See How Loud is a Silenced Pistol?)

4. How Lighters Work?

Lighters need fuel and a working mechanism to create a spark to ignite the fuel which then produces a flame. Modern lighters are packed with these elements in a cheap and portable device that allows us to ignite fire anytime and anywhere easily. Most modern lighter manufacturers have switched the fuel source from Naphtha to Butane which is stored under pressure. Once released, it becomes flammable and catches fire quickly.

When the friction wheel is flicked by the thumb, a little amount of the butane gas is released which gets ignited by a spark. Unlike the fuel sources used in the past, butane does not have as strong of an odor and creates a stable candle-like flame. (See How many Gallons of Gas in a Barrel of Oil?)

How lighters work

5. What are the Different Types of Lighters?

There is an endless variety of lighters out there, but some are more popular than others. In this section, we will explore the most common types.

  • Butane – Butane, a type of fuel used to power Zippos and BICs alike is made from petroleum. The key difference between these two products lies in their design; Zippos are refillable, while BICs aren’t.
  • Torch – First came out in 2002, the barbeque lighter has been a game-changer. Not only it has a helpful torch at the end but also helps you light candles and grills with ease.
  • Flint – The flint lighter is a convenient and stylish device that can be used for many purposes including recreational use of fire.
  • Vintage – In the time period between 1823 and 1980, there were many popular brands of lighters including Ronson, Zippo, & Colibri. Any lighter from this period is considered a vintage lighter.
  • Novelty – Novelty lighters are unique as they are unusual in shape. These kinds of lighters are fun to own as they don’t resemble a traditional lighter. However, due to their toy-like appearance, they are banned in some places around the globe.
  • No Flame – A lighter without a flame is run by a rechargeable electrical current. This type of lighter is also called an electric or windproof lighter. (See How to Make Stink Spray)

Always remember to not let kids around lighters as it can be dangerous!

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