Thermal lance

A thermal lance, thermic lance, oxygen lance, or burning bar is a tool that heats and melts steel in the presence of pressurized oxygen to create very high temperatures for cutting. It consists of a long steel tube packed with alloy steel rods, sometimes mixed with aluminum rods to increase the heat output. One end of the tube is placed in a holder and oxygen is fed through the tube.

Thermal lance cutting a railroad bridge to prepare for replacement

The far end of the tube is pre-heated and lit by an oxyacetylene torch. An intense stream of burning steel is produced at the working end and can be used to cut rapidly through thick materials, including steel and concrete. The tube is consumed by the process within a few minutes.

Often used as a heavy duty demolition tool, the thermic lance is also used to remove seized axles of heavy machinery without damaging the bearings or axle housing. This technique is often used on the pins and axles of large equipment such as cranes, ships, bridges, and sluice-gates.

The temperature at which a thermal lance operates varies depending on the environment.[1] Some estimates put the maximum temperature at 4500 °C (8130 °F),[2] while others calculate it to be 2730 °C (4950 °F).[3]

In Popular CultureEdit

The thermal lance is seen in at least four movies, in which the main characters are robbing bank vaults: The Score, starring Robert De Niro and Edward Norton;, Thief, starring James Caan and Tuesday Weld; The Real McCoy, starring Kim Basinger and Terence Stamp; and The Bank Job, with Jason Statham. It is also seen in the Burn Notice season 4 episode "Hot Property",[4] and the Person of Interest season 3 episode "Mors Praematura".

In several video games, the thermal lance appears as a melee weapon with insanely high firepower, such as X-Com: Terror from the Deep or Fallout: New Vegas.

See alsoEdit

  • Thermite – Pyrotechnic composition of metal powder, which serves as fuel, and metal oxide


  1. ^ LaGuardia, Thomas S. (2004). "Chapter 16.3: Characterization; Description of Select Technologies". The Decommissioning Handbook. New York: ASME Press. pp. 4‐46. ISBN 978-0-89448-041-6.
  2. ^ Kosanke, B. J.; Sturman, B.; Kosanke, K.; von Maltitz, I.; Shimizu, T.; Wilson, M. A.; Kubota, N.; Jennings-White, C.; Chapman, D. (2004). Pyrotechnic Chemistry. Journal of Pyrotechnics. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-889526-15-7.
  3. ^ Wang, Haorong; Hlavacek, Vladimir; Pranda, Pavol (2004). "Model Analysis of Thermal Lance Combustion". Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. 43 (16): 4703. doi:10.1021/ie030729r.
  4. ^ Von Doviak, Scott (2010-11-18). "Burn Notice: "Hot Property"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2022-02-22.

External linksEdit

  • U.S. Patent 3,921,542 (oxygen-supplied thermic lance, invented by Ernst Brandenberger)
  • U.S. Patent 3,460,223 (device for fixing holes by method of smelting, especially into buildings, invented by Berczes et al.)