CPM Industries' Blog

Magnesium + Water = Big Problems for You

Posted by Gavin Mason

Dangers of Magnesium

If you have ever worked with Magnesium you probably know just how dangerous it can be if it catches fire or if you are working with the metal in molten form, such as the metal casting industry. Magnesium fires are incredibly dangerous when compared to a wood fire and this is due to the incredible amount of heat necessary for the fire. The temperature required just to ignite magnesium is 473°C (883°F) compared to wood which needs just 274°C (525°F). Once started, a magnesium fire can reach temperatures up to 3,100°C (5,610°F) which is what makes this type of fire dangerous. If you were to ATTEMPT to put a magnesium fire out with water, you will be rudely awakened to find the water has done the exact opposite. When water is added to the extreme heat of a magnesium fire, the water evaporates into hydrogen and oxygen, the oxygen the combines with the magnesium vapors and ignite. You would think that water would extinguish the flames, but it only accelerates the fire. However, if enough water is added and the temperature of the fire can be reduced, water will eventually put the fire out. 

Here are some examples of magnesium fires. 

Here is an example we found of a small amount of magnesium burning with water added.

 

This next example is a training video created to demonstrate the reaction to firefighters.

 

Today's cars typically contain numerous magnesium parts, here is an example of a firefighter putting out a car fire. Sometimes firefighters don't always have the necessary extinguishers for magnesium fires so they must fight the fire with only water which takes longer and is much more dangerous for the firefighter. 

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