Thermite Reaction

Thermite Reaction

Witness this exciting chemical reaction where all you need is aluminum foil and rusted ball bearings.

A rusted iron ball bearing seems like it might be past its prime, as far as uses go. Thankfully, all you need to do is wrap one of the bearings in some aluminum foil. You’re almost ready to create a thermite reaction. BANG!

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Experiment Materials

  • Rusted, iron/steel ball bearings
  • Aluminum foil
  • Adult supervision

Experiment Videos


Thermite Reaction - Step 1


Wrap a rusted steel ball bearing completely with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Thermite Reaction


Strike the foil-covered ball bearing with a second rusted steel ball bearing.

Thermite Reaction - Step 3


After striking one spot, you’ll need to rotate the foil-covered ball bearing to strike another position.

How Does It Work

A thermite reaction is an exothermic oxidation-reduction reaction similar to the ignition of black powder. The reaction requires a metal oxide and fuel. The fuel in the thermite reaction you produce is aluminum in the foil. Your metal oxide is iron oxide, more commonly known as rust.

Knocking the ball bearings together creates a small area of heat. This heat, combined with the aluminum and iron oxide, produces aluminum oxide, elemental iron, and a large amount of heat and light. This heat is so extreme that thermite reactions can be used to weld other metals together, similar to the process of creating railroad tracks.

Take It Further

Thermite Reaction - Paper TrialTry tapping both ball bearings (no foil) together on either side of a sheet of paper.