Lab Safety

Pyrophoric Materials

What are pyrophoric materials? 

Pyrophorics are materials that will ignite spontaneously in air. The flame is often invisible.

How should I handle pyrophoric materials?

  • Never work alone
  • Solids must be transferred in inert atmospheres
  • Liquids should be stored in sealed containers with PTFE-lined septa to prevent air exposure.
  • Handling of liquid pyrophorics must be conducted via cannula or syringe transfer to prevent exposure to air if not manipulated within an inert atmosphere
  • Do not let the pyrophoric material come in contact with any combustible materials, including paper products
  • Needles should be equipped with locking mechanisms to prevent accidental disconnection and release of reagents
  • Use a shield or hood with the sash at the lowest possible height whenever possible

What are some examples of pyrophoric materials?

  • organo-metallic reagents (i.e. Grignard reagents)
  • alkali earth elements (sodium, potassium, cesium)
  • finely divided metals (Raney nickel, aluminum powder, zinc dust)
  • metal hydrides (sodium hydride, germane, lithium aluminum hydride)
  • alkyl metal hydrides (butyllithium, trimethylaluminum, triethylboron)
  • metal carbonyls (nickel carbonyl, iron pentacarbonyl)
  • gases (arsine, diborane, phosphine, silane)
  • silicon halides (dichloromethylsilane

What if I spill something pyrophoric?

  • Powdered lime or sand can be used to smother the flame
  • DO NOT use water or a fire extinguisher for these spills
  • If the material make contact with the skin or eyes, flush completely with water for 15 minutes
  • Seek first aid for any burns

Page last modified December 1, 2010