Metals combine with oxygen to form metal oxides. For example iron wool burning in oxygen produces iron oxide

The chemical equation.

Iron                +     Oxygen     –>    Iron oxide

Aluminium     +     Oxygen     –>     Aluminium oxide

Aluminium is reactive enough to chemically combine with oxygen atoms that are already attached to another metal atom.

Aluminium     +     Iron  oxide     –>     Aluminium oxide     +     iron

This is known as a thermite reaction . A huge amount of heat is given out and the iron formed is molten. The reaction has been used by NZ rail to weld continuous sections of line together.

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