How a Lighter Works

A lighter may be a small object that users take for granted, but there is interesting science behind how a lighter works. Many individuals may not be aware of the science involved when a lighter is used for any of the tasks that lighters are commonly used for.

History of the lighter

While it may be assumed that the lighter is a relatively new invention, it has actually been around for centuries. The first lighter was actually invented in the 17th century when converted flintlock pistols were used to spark the necessary flame. The first actual cigarette lighter was invented in 1816 by a German chemist by the name of J.W. Dobereiner. His lighter was invented 10 years before matches were invented.

There were significant problems with the lamp lighter, in that it was big, heavy and dangerous. Due to the issues with Dobereiner’s lighter, it went out of production by the 19th century.

After Dobereiner’s lighter, several other men patented their version of a cigarette lighter, with modern versions being much smaller, lighter weight and easy-to-use. The disposable lighter may be one of the most used disposable products today.

How a modern lighter works

After several trial and error inventions to perfect the cigarette lighter, modern-day lighters are very easy to use and much safer than earlier lighters. A base container contains the flammable liquid used to spark the flame. That is the simple explanation, but the science of a lighter deserves a more detailed explanation of how a lighter works.

One of the most popular lighters is the Zippo lighter, invented in 1932 by George G. Blaisdell. Since the first Zippo lighter was created, tens of thousands of Zippo lighters have been sold to the general public, including during World War II when all Zippo lighters made were shipped to those fighting in the war. Since WWII, Zippo has increased in popularity. The sleek metal design and many styles of Zippo lighters make them a favorite among collectors.

The Zippo lighter has a hinged top. Inside the metal case is everything that makes the Zippo work. Zippo Lighter Products explains that inside the lighter case is the wick, the windscreen, thumb wheel, and flint, all mounted on “an open bottom metal box, slightly smaller than the bottom of the outer case, The smaller inside case fits snugly into the metal outer case. The inside hollow area of the case contains “rayon batt” which the lighter fluid into, which then is trapped by the batt.

A small cylinder shaped tube holds the flint. Within the tube is a spring and a cap-screw which keeps the flint in constant contact with the thumbscrew. Spinning the thumbscrew against flint causes a spark which in turn ignites the fluid in the wick.

All 22 parts of a Zippo lighter is replaceable. Replacing the parts may be understood when viewing “Zippo Windproof Lighter Anatomy.”

The Bic Disposable Lighter may be the favorite choice for many individuals. The Bic body is made of plastic which has been welded with the base. The “body, base and seal ball constitute the gas reservoir.” My Bic Lighter also demonstrates how each piece of the lighter works, such as the flint spring, which feeds flint onto the spark wheel as the flint wears. It is the flint spring which applies pressure to the flint, resulting in the spark. The flint supplies material for the spark. With jet and fork, the opening and closing of gas coming from the valve is controlled. The valve regulates the fuel flow and is responsible for the creation of flame at predetermined height.

Next time a lighter is used, perhaps a little thought could be given to the fact that the marvel of modern science is even utilized with every flick, spark and flame displayed by that lightweight lighter, no matter if it is the highly collectible or the disposable type.