Loss on ignition

Loss on ignition is a test used in inorganic analytical chemistry, particularly in the analysis of minerals. It consists of strongly heating ("igniting") a sample of the material at a specified temperature, allowing volatile substances to escape, until its mass ceases to change. This may be done in air, or in some other reactive or inert atmosphere. The simple test typically consists of placing a few grams of the material in a tared, pre-ignited crucible and determining its mass, placing it in a temperature-controlled furnace for a set time, cooling it in a controlled (e.g. water-free, CO2-free) atmosphere, and redetermining the mass. The process may be repeated to show that mass-change is complete. A variant of the test in which mass-change is continually monitored as temperature is changed, is thermogravimetry.

The loss on ignition is reported as part of an elemental or oxide analysis of a mineral. The volatile materials lost usually consist of "combined water" (hydrates and labile hydroxy-compounds) and carbon dioxide from carbonates. It may be used as a quality test, commonly carried out for minerals such as iron ore. For example, the loss on ignition of a fly ash consists of contaminant unburnt fuel.

In pyroprocessing industries such as lime, calcined bauxite, refractories or cement manufacture, the loss on ignition of the raw material is roughly equivalent to the loss in mass that it will undergo in a kiln. Similarly for minerals the loss on ignition represents the actual material lost during smelting or refining in a furnace or smelter. The loss on ignition of the product indicates the extent to which the pyroprocessing was incomplete. ASTM tests are defined for limestone and lime[1] and cement[2] among others.


  1. ASTM C 25 Standard test methods for chemical analysis of limestone, quicklime and hydrated lime
  2. ASTM C 114 Standard test methods for chemical analysis of hydraulic cement
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