Carl Auer Von Welsbach – Discoverer of Gas Mantle & Neodymium, Praseodymium

Carl Auer von Welsbach – discoverer of gas mantle & neodymium, praseodymium elements

Carl Auer von Welsbach

Biography & Contributions

Carl Auer von Welsbach [Carl Auer, Freiherr von Welsbach] was an Austrian scientist and inventor born on August 20, 1858 – died on August 04, 1929. Welsbach was noted for his major works on rare earth elements.

Welsbach was also well known for his invention of gas mantle, development of flint, discovered neodymium, praseodymium rare earth elements.

He developed gas mantle using a chemical mixture of 60% magnesium oxide, 20% lanthanum oxide and 20% yttrium oxide which he called Actinophor. To produce a mantle, guncotton is impregnated with a mixture of Actinophor and then heated, the cotton eventually burns away leaving a solid ash which glows brightly when heated.

In 1890 he introduced a new form of the mantle based on a mixture of 99% thorium dioxide and 1% cerium (IV) oxide which he developed in collaboration with his colleague Dr. Haittinger. He then started work on development of metal-filament mantles, first with platinum wiring, and then osmium.

In 1903 Welsbach won another patent for a fire striker (flint) composition named ferrocerium. Welsbach's flints consisted of pyrophoric alloys, 70% cerium and 30% iron, which when scratched or struck would give off sparks.

Welsbach found that a fabric impregnated with a mixture of thorium nitrate and cerium nitrate could be made into a mantle that glowed brightly when heated by a gas flame. In 1898 Welsbach introduced the first metallic filament for incandescent lamps.

Welsbach also developed misch metal, a mixture of cerium and other rare earths, which he combined with iron to make Auer’s metal, the first improvement over flint and steel for making sparks since ancient times. It is used in cigarette lighters and in strikers for lighting gas jets.


Ferrocerium is a man-made metallic material that gives off hot sparks at temperatures of 1,650 °C when scraped against a rough surface, such as ridged steel. Because of this property it is used in many applications, such as clockwork toys, strikers for gas welding and cutting torches, so-called flint-and-steel or flint spark lighter fire-starters in emergency survival kits and cigarette lighters, as the initial ignition source for the primary fuel. It is also commonly called ferro rod and most commonly of all, flint.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium Oxide is a white hygroscopic solid mineral. It occurs naturally as periclase and is a source of magnesium. Magnesium oxide is produced by the calcination of magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide or by the treatment of magnesium chloride with lime followed by heat.

It is used as an insulator in industrial cables, as a basic refractory material for crucibles and as a principal fireproofing ingredient in construction materials. It is used as a reference white color in colorimetry, owing to its good diffusing and reflectivity properties. Magnesium Oxide is also used as a protective coating in plasma displays.

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