A cigarette lighters are a portable device used to generate a flame. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable fluid or pressurized liquid gas, a means of ignition, and some provision for extinguishing the flame.
The first lighters were converted flintlock pistols that used gunpowder. One of the first lighters was invented by the German chemist named Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner in 1823 and was often called Döbereiner’s lamp. This lighter worked by passing flammable hydrogen gas, produced within the lighter by a chemical reaction, over a platinum metal catalyst which in turn caused it to ignite and give off a great amount of heat and light. The device was very large and highly dangerous and fell out of production by the end of the 19th century.
The patenting of ferrocerium or by Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1903 has made modern lighters possible. When scratched, it produces a large spark which is responsible for lighting the fuel of many lighters, and is suitably inexpensive for use in disposable items.
Using Carl Auer von Welsbach’s flint, companies like Ronson were able to develop practical and easy to use lighters. In 1910 Ronson released the first Pist-O-Liter and in 1913 the company developed its first lighter, called the “Wonderlite”, which was a
permanent match style of lighter.
The Zippo lighter and company were invented and founded by George G. Blaisdell in 1932. The Zippo was noted for its reliability, “Life Time Warranty” and marketing as “Wind-Proof”. Most early Zippos used naphtha as a fuel source.
In the 1950s there was a switch in fuel choice from naphtha to butane, as butane allows for a controllable flame and has less odour. This also led to the use of piezoelectric spark, which replaced the need for a flint wheel in some lighters and was used in many Ronson lighters.
A device of cigarette lighters
Naphtha based lighters employ a saturated cloth wick and fibre packing to absorb the fluid and prevent it from leaking. They employ an enclosed top to prevent the volatile liquid from evaporating, and to conveniently extinguish the flame. Butane
lighters have a valved orifice that meters the butane gas as it escapes.
A spark is created by striking metal against a flint, or by pressing a button that compresses a piezoelectric crystal, generating an electric arc. In naphtha lighters, the liquid is sufficiently volatile, and flammable vapour is present as soon as
the top of the lighter is opened. Butane lighters combine the striking action with the opening of the valve to release gas. The spark ignites the flammable gas causing a flame to come out of the lighter which continues until either the top is closed, or
the valve is released – butane.
A metal enclosure with air holes generally surrounds the flame, and is designed to allow mixing of fuel and air while making the lighter less sensitive to wind. The high energy jet in butane lighters allows mixing to be accomplished by using Bernoulli’s
principle, so that the air hole in this type tend to be much smaller and farther from the flame.
Windproof lighters use the same fuel – butane as standard lighters, and therefore develop the same vapour pressure. The difference is that windproof lighters mix the fuel with air, and pass the butane/air mixture through a catalytic coil. An electric spark starts the initial flame, and soon after the coil is hot enough to sustain a catalytic reaction and cause the fuel/air mixture to burn on contact.
A history of cigarette lighters
First invented in 1823 and improved in the 1880s, pocket cigarette lighters were as common as keys or wallets by the early 20th century. The basic types of vintage lighters are manual (a spark from a flint striking a wheel ignites a wick or creates a flame above a gas valve), semi-automatic (the wheel also opens the fuel-source cover), and automatic (push-button).
The first manual lighters were called strike lighters and worked like matches. Users would scratch a flint using a wand with a hard metal tip and an attached wick; the flint would create sparks to ignite the wick, which was soaked with flammable fluid. By the 1920s, lighters had become functional as well as artistic with the advent of the semiautomatic lighter, in which the user flips open the lid and a flint wheel simultaneously spins and ignites the wick.
The automatic lighter was created by Louis Aronson, the founder of Ronson lighters, in 1926. It requires only the push of a button to create the flame, which stays lit as long as the button is held down. Early electric lighters were equally simple to use, and worked like the lighters in classic cars: The lighter was tipped with a metal coil and plugged into a larger housing element, which would heat the bottom enough to ignite a cigarette.
Through World War II, most lighters ran on Naptha, a petroleum mixture—after the war, Naptha was replaced by compressed butane. To attract female customers in the 1930s, some companies created lighters that combined various accessories, such as cigarette cases and compacts, and added rhinestones or decorative enameled designs. In the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, Ronson produced the Ronson Master Pack, combining a lighter, cigarette case, and watch.
Vintage lighters vary from expensive, elegant objects made from precious metals to cheap novelty items, such as lighters that look like lipstick cases or little TV sets. Some lighters incorporated materials from notable manufacturers, such as Lalique glass or Lenox porcelain. Other key lighter manufacturers include Zippo, Dunhill, Penguin, Colibri, S.T. Dupont, Scripto, and Evans.