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WHEEL SPARKS AS SOURCE OF QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE CHEMICAL ANALYSES OF FERROUS

METALS
D. A. C. FRANCISCO
PHYSICAL SCIENCE
CAVITE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
REGION 4A CALABARZON, CAVITE CITY
iamaizidora@yahoo.com
Keywords: Metals; Sparks; Grinding Wheel; Steel
ABSTRACT
Illumination of fireworks and meteors is of great interest to everyone. Meteors and fireworks contain ferrous metals
that bring colors to the sparks of it, similar to the one produced in grinding wheel. This study aims to develop a system that can
identify and quantify the alloying elements found in a metal through the use of a grinding wheel.
Wrought iron, carbon steel, tool steel, cast iron and stainless steel were subjected to grinding wheel to identify the
alloying elements and verify the contents that can be quantified. The experiment showed the different shapes and color of the burst
corresponds to the chemical component found on the metal. Bursts, dust and sizes identifies the percentage of elements found on the
ferrous metal. Carbon and molybdenum are the two elements that can be quantified. The steps of the burst and the presence of dust are
considered in identifying the percentage of carbon in a metal. As the carbon content of the steel increases, the bursts of the sparks
become more complicated; as the molybdenum content of a certain steel increases, the thickness of the spark decreases.
With this devised technique, products could readily be checked; construction times for structural projects are
shortened; destruction of buildings during earthquakes will minimize; and iron junked anywhere will lessen since alloying element of
scrap material can be identified and quantified.

INTRODUCTION
Illumination of fireworks and meteors is of great
interest to everyone. Meteors and fireworks contain ferrous
metals that bring colors to the sparks of it. After conducting
several experiments, it was found out that the spark produced
by a ferrous metal when it is subjected to the grinding wheel
can identify the elements in it by just analyzing the shape of
the bursts (Francisco, 2009). The success of this experiment
gave birth to the idea of quantifying the elements found on the
metal just like what assay laboratories are testing. This study
aims to develop an economical and fast system of the same
qualitative and quantitative chemical analysis of ferrous metal
alloys by analyzing their grinding wheel sparks. This study
specifically aims to determine the elements that can be found
in a ferrous metal and quantify its percentage.
Very little literature discusses the specific
characteristics of sparks produced in grinding wheel that can
be utilized in identifying and quantifying the alloying element
present. Woodson (1959) mentioned that spark testing is a
quick method often used in shops and also by junk dealers and
other for identifying unclassified metals. Existing literatures
only focuses on the streamline produced by the grinding wheel
and the general characteristics of the sparks. These posit that
there is a need for a specific description of the alloying
elements present together with its burst features.
METHODOLOGY

subjecting it to the grinding wheel. The test is carried out in a


room suitably darkened.
The grinding of specimen is carried out on the portion of
the specimen which can produce the spark representing the
chemical composition of the base metal. The decarburized
layer of the surface, cemented surface, nitride layer and scale
produced in acetylene cutting give different kind of spark to
the base metal; therefore, the use of these parts is avoided.
The pressure of pressing specimen against the grinder, or
the pressure of pressing the grinder on to the specimen is kept
equal with the pressure consistent to producing spark of
500mm length.
The spark is directed horizontally or slightly on an
upward direction, and the observation is made in receding
direction of the spark, or from the direction at right angle to
the stream.
Observation of spark is made on each section of wheel
spark, centre area and tail spark taking particular care to note
on the following characteristics:
1. Streamline (color, number, brightness, length)
2. Bursting (color, number, shape, size)
3. Resistance to grinding felt by hand
Using a camera, the sparks were captured and examined.

Qualitative Chemical Analysis

Quantitative Chemical Analysis

Each piece of ferrous metal (wrought iron, carbon


steel, tool steel, cast iron, stainless steel) is tested by

Same guidelines in the qualitative chemical analysis


were carried out for the quantitative chemical analysis. Steps
1

of burst of the sparks of the ferrous metals were identified this


time. Through this, the percentage of the elements found on
the ferrous metal is identified.
Grinding wheel sparks were then categorized. The differences
of the element can be classified into four namely: streamline,
burst, resistance and position (Figure 1).
Angle of carrier
line

Carrier line

Wheel
Spark

Center
Area

Test Specimen

Grinding Wheel

Streamline

Tail
Spark
Burst

Figure 1. Classification of the sparks produced from


grinding wheel.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Qualitative Chemical Analysis
Six elements are able to be identified namely
chromium, molybdenum, manganese, nickel, tungsten, silicon
and chromium. Each element corresponds to a shape that will
help in identifying the elements found on a ferrous metal.
Diagrammatical representations of the sparks are shown in
Figure 2.

Woodson (1959) discussed that metals can be


classified according to the sparks that they are producing in a
grinding wheel. It was noted that cast iron has spark stream
which is about 20 inches. Volume is small, color strawyellow. Carbon steel is characterized by white sparks which is
moderately large. Length of the spark is 60- 70 inches with
forks and appendages. On the other hand, stainless steels
produce stream which is moderate in volume, straw- colored
near wheel and white near end. Streamers end usually in forks.
Lastly, wrought iron is characterized by a yellow stream about
65 inches in length. Volume is fairly large, streamers ending in
forks and appendages. Woodsons description agrees with
observed features in the experiment however the specific
features of the elements were not described completely.
Color, brightness, length and thickness of streamline
vary for every element. The color of the spark ranges from
yellow to red. Majority of the elements are dark in the
streamline except for manganese which is bright. Length of
the spark did not delineate the elements since all are
categorized to be short. Lastly, thickness ranges from fine to
thick with exception to tungsten producing wavy to
intermittent thickness.
Another parameter that separates the element is the
burst. Burst of an element is characterized by its color, shape,
dust and number. Position of the bursts can either be at the
tip/tail of the spark or at the center area (Figure 3).

Mo
Cr

Flower Pattern (Cr)

Spearhead (Mo)

Flash with blob (Ni)

Ni
Mn
W
Brush (W)

Spearhead with
feather (W)

White bead (Si)

Mn
Si

Split spearhead (Ni)

Wavy streamline
(W and Cr)

Droplet (W)

Split flower (W)

Intermittent
Streamline (W)

Figure 3. Position of bursts of an element in the sparks


produced.
Chromium, manganese, silicon and tungsten are the
elements that can be found bursting on the tip of the spark. On
the other hand, resistance pertains to the pressure during the
grinding process. It was observed that soft resistance is only
observed in manganese and silicon.
Quantitative Chemical Analysis

Figure 2. Observed characteristic sparks of alloy steel


agreeing with Woodson (1959).

Carbon and Molybdenum are the two elements that can


be quantified using the grinding wheel technique. The steps of
the burst and the presence of dust are considered in identifying
the percentage of carbon in a metal. In molybdenum, the size
of the spark is considered (Figure 4).
2

Spike
(under 0.05 % C)

2 bursts
(0.05 % C approx)

3 bursts
(0.1 % C approx)

4 bursts
(0.15 % C approx)

Multiple bursts
(0.2 % C approx)

Star bursts
(0.2 % C approx)

3 bursts in 2 steps
(0.25 % C approx)

Multiple bursts in 2
steps (0.3 % C approx)

Multiple bursts in 3
steps (0.4 % C approx)

Big spearhead
(0.1 % Mo)

Medium spearhead
(0.3 % Mo)

directly proportional with the carbon content. The resistance


felt by hand became greater as carbon content increases
CONCLUSION
This study aims to develop an economical and fast
system of the same qualitative and quantitative chemical
analysis of ferrous metal alloys by analyzing their grinding
wheel sparks. Results showed that ferrous metal alloys
subjected to the grinding wheel exhibited orange color due to
its iron content and friction involved.

Figure 4. Quantitative chemical analysis showing the sparks


produced by carbon and molybdenum (in different percent
composition).

The sparks observed in different alloys, positively is


an indicative of the alloying elements present on the metal.
The experiment showed the different shapes and color of the
burst corresponds to the chemical component found on the
metal. Bursts, dust and sizes identifies the percentage of
elements found on the ferrous metal. Carbon and molybdenum
are the two elements that can be quantified using the grinding
wheel technique. The steps of the burst and the presence of
dust are considered in identifying the percentage of carbon in
a metal. It can be noted that as the carbon content of the steel
increases, the bursts of the sparks become more complicated;
as the molybdenum content of a certain steel increases, the
thickness of the spark decreases.

After testing several steels with varying carbon content


it was noted that as the carbon content of the steel increases,
the bursts of the sparks become more complicated. With the
prior knowledge on the qualitative analysis of the wheel
sparks, molybdenum content was taken into consideration. As
the molybdenum content of a certain steel increases, the
thickness decreases. Following will be the detailed description
of the sparks with reference to the parameters observed.

This proves that the method for the chemical analysis


of alloying elements in the ferrous metal alloys by the
grinding wheel spark test is viable, fast and economical.
Ocular observation can obtain relatively accurate results too,
provided one has sharp eyes and fast retentive memory. This
study is only limited to five types of metal, its is suggested
that different types of cast irons should be tested together with
malleable iron, nitride steel and nickel.

Percentage of carbon present in the steel can be


determined by analyzing the characteristics of the sparks
primarily: streamline, burst and resistance.

REFERENCES

Multiple bursts in 3
steps with dust
(0.5 % C approx)

Small spearhead
(0.5 % Mo)

Streamline can be characterized by its color,


brightness, length, thickness and number As the carbon
content of the steel increases, the color starts from orange
moving to the left side of the color spectrum. As carbon
content increases, the streamline became brighter but when it
reaches 0.6, it started to darken. The length and thickness of
the streamline is constant from 0 0.5% C but started to
shorten and become fine when it reach 0.6%. Number of
streamline is directly proportional to the carbon content of a
metal.
Bursts in the carbon steel vary as the percentage of
carbon present in the steel varies. Resistance felt by hand
when subjecting the metal to the grinding wheel also changes
as carbon content increases.
As carbon content increases, the steps of the burst also
increases until it became too much complicated. The size of
the burst increases as carbon content increases with exception
to carbon contents which is equal or greater that 0.60 percent.
Spikes can be found at the root but as carbon content
increases, fewer spikes will be observed. Number of burst is

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