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Dr. Carl Auer von Welsbach (1858-1929) had a rare double talent of understanding how to pursue fundamental science and, at the same time, of commercializing himself successfully as a inventor and discoverer.

He discovered 4 elements (Neodymium, Praseodymium, Ytterbium, and Lutetium).

He invented the incandescent mantle, that helped gaslighting at the end of the 19th century to a renaissance.

He developed the Ferrocerium - it`s still used as a flint in every disposable lighter.

He was an eminent authority, and great expert in the field of rare earths (lanthanoides).

He invented the electric metal filament light bulb which is used billions of times today.

Additionally, all his life he took active part in different fields, from photography to ornithology. His personal qualities are remembered highly by the people of Althofen, he not only had an excellent mind but also a big heart. These qualities ensured him a prominent and lasting place not only in Austria`s science and industrial history.

Biography:

1885 1890 1900 1905 1910

9th of Sept. 1858: Born in Vienna, son of Therese and Alois Ritter Auer von Welsbach ( his father was director of the Imperial printing office the "Staatsdruckerei").

1869-73: went to the secondary school in Mariahilf, (then changed to the secondary school in Josefstadt.)

1873-77: went to secondary school in Josefstadt, graduation.

1877-78: military service, became a second lieutenant.

1878-80: Inscribed into the technical University of Vienna; studies in math, general organic and inorganic chemistry, technical physics and thermodynamics with the Professors Winkler, Bauer, Reitlinger; and Pierre.

1880-82: Changed to the University of Heidelberg; lectures on inorganic experimental chemistry and Lab. experiments with Prof. Bunsen, introduction to spectral analysis and the history of chemistry, mineralogy and physics.

5th of Feb. 1882: Promotion to Doctor of Philosophy at the Ruperta-Carola-University in Heidelberg.

1882: Return to Vienna as unpaid Assistant in Prof. Lieben`s laboratory; work with chemical separation methods for investigations on rare earth elements.

1882-1884: Publications: " Ueber die Erden des Gadolinits von Ytterby", "Ueber die Seltenen Erden".

WB01343_.gif (599 Byte)1885: The first separation of the element "Didymium" with help from a newly developed separation method from himself, based on the fractioned crystalisation of a Didym-ammonium nitrat solution. After the characteristical colouring, Auer gave the green components the name Praseodymium, the pink components the name Neodidymium. In time the latter element was more commonly known as Neodymium.

1885-1892: Work on gas mantle for the incandescent lighting.

Development of a method to produce gas mantle ("Auerlicht) based on the impregnation from cottontissue by means, measures, methods of liquids, that rare earth has been absolved in and the ash from the material in a following glow process.

Production of the first incandescent mantle out of lanthanum oxide, in which the gas flame is surrounded from a stocking; definite improvement in light emmission, but lack of stability in humidity.

Continuous improvements in the chemical composition of the incandescent mantel "Auerlicht", experimentations of Lanthanum oxide-magnesium oxide- variations.

18th of Sept. 1885: The patenting of a gas burner with a "Actinophor" incandescent mantle made up of 60% magnesium oxide, 20% lanthanum oxide and 20% yttrium oxide; in the same year, the magnesium oxide part was replaced with zirconium oxide and the constitution of a second patent with reference to the additional use of the light body in a spirits flame.

9th of April 1886: Introduction the name "Gasgluehlicht" through the Journalist Motiz Szeps after the successful presentation from the Actinophors in the lower Austrian trade union ; regular production of the impregnation liquid, called "Fluid", at the Chemical Institute.

1887: The acquisition of the factory Würth & Co. for chemical-pharmaceutical products in Atzgersdorf and the industrial production of the light bodies.

1889: The beginning of sales problems because of the defaults with the earlier incandescent mantle, ie. it`s fragility, the short length of use, as well as having an unpleasant, cold, green coloured light , and the relatively high price. The factory in Atzgersdorf closes.

1890: First experiments with light bodies for Thorium oxide mixtures, from incentives from his collaborator Dr. Haittinger.

The development of fractioned cristallisation methods for the preparation of pure Thorium oxide from and therefore cheap Monazitsand.

The analysis of the connection between the purity of Thorium oxide and its light emission. The ascertainment of the optimal composition of the incandescent mantle in a long series of tests.

1891: Patenting of the incandescent mantle out of 99% Thorium oxide and 1% Cerium oxide, at that period of time, because of the light emission it was a direct competition for the electric carbon-filament lamp. The resuming of production in Atzgersdorf near Vienna and the quick spreading of the incandescent mantle because of their high duration. The beginning of a competition with the electric lighting.

Work with high melting heavy metals to improve and higher the filament temperature, and therefore the light emission as well.

The development of the production of thin filaments.

The making of incandescent mantle with Platinum threads that were covered with high melting Thorium oxide, whereby it was possible to use the lamps over the melting temperature of Platinum.

This variation was discarded because with smelting the platinum threads either the cover would burst or by solidifying it would rip apart.

WB01343_.gif (599 Byte)15th of Jan. 1890:

The taking out of a patent for two manufacturing methods for filaments.

In the patent specification Carl Auer von Welsbach described the manufacturing of filaments through secretion of the high smelting element Osmium onto the metallic-filament.

The development and experimentation of further designing methods such as the pasting method for the manufacturing of suitable high smelting metallic-filaments. With this method Osmium powder and a mixture of rubber or sugar is mixed together and kneaded into a paste. The manufacturing results in that the paste gets stamped through a delicate nozzle discharged cylinder and the filament subsequently dries and sinters. This was the first commercial and industrial process in the powder metallurgy for very high smelting metals.

1898: The acquiring of a industrial property in Treibach and the beginning of the experimentation and discovery work at this location. The taking out of a patent for the metallic-filament lamp with Osmium filament.

1899: Married Marie Nimpfer in Helgoland.

WB01343_.gif (599 Byte)1900: The beginning of the development of a separations method for the elements "Ytter- earths" based or depending on the partial solubility of the oxalate.

1902: Market introduction of the "Auer-Oslight" the first industrial finished Osmium metallic-filament lamp using the paste method.

The advantages of this metallic-filament lamp over the, at that period of time, widely used carbon-filament lamp were:

57% less electricity consumption; less blackening of the glass; because of the higher filament temperature, a "whiter" light; a longer life span and therefore more economic.

The beginning of the investigation of spark giving metals with the aim ignition mechanisms for lighters, gas lighters and gas lamps as well as projectile and mine ignition.

Carl Auer von Welsbach knew of the possibility to produce sparks by mechanical means from Cerium from his teacher Prof. Bunsen.

The ascertainment of the optimal compound from Cerium-Iron alloys for spark production.

1903: The taking out of a patent for his pyrophoric alloys (by scratching with hard and sharp surfaces a splinter which could ignite itself.) In the patent specification 70% Cerium and 30% Iron was given as an optimal compound.

Further development of a method to produce the latter alloy cheaply. The optimizing of Bunsen, Hillebrand and Norton´s procedure, used at that time mainly for producing Cerium, was based on the fusion electrolysis from smelted Rare Earth chlorides. The problem at that time was in the leading of the electrolysis to secrete a pore-free and long lasting metal.
This was the first industrial process and commercial utilization of the rare earth metals.

WB01343_.gif (599 Byte) 30th of March 1905: A report to the "Akademie der Wissenschaften" in Vienna that the results of the spectroscopic analysis show that Ytterbium is made up of two elements. Auer named the elements after the stars Aldebaranium and Cassiopeium. He ommitted the publication of the attained spectras and the ascertained atomic weights.

1907: The founding of the "Treibacher Chemische Werke GesmbH" in Treibach-Althofen for the production of Ferrocerium- lighter flints under the trade name "Original Auermetall".

Tr_Werke.jpg (15218 Byte)

The publication of the spectras and the atomic weights of both new, from Ytterbium separated elements, in the completion of his report to the Academie der Wissenschaften.

Priority dispute with the french Chemist Urbain concerning the analysis of Ytterbium.

1908: The solution of the electrolysis of fused salts (cerium chloride) problem, at which the minerals Cerit and Allanite are used as source substances.

1909: The adaption of the procedure, from his collaborator, Dr.Fattinger, to be able to use the Monazitsand residue out of the incandescent mantle production, for the production of cerium metal for the lighter flints.

The production of three different pyrophoric alloys:

"Cer" or Auermetall I : Alloy out of fairly pure Cerium and Iron. Used for igniting purposes.

"Lanthan" or Auermetall II : The Cerium-Iron alloy enriched with the element Lanthan. Used for light signals because of its particularly bright sparking power.

Erdmetall or Auermetall III : Alloy out of Iron and "natural" Cermischmetall; a rare earth metal alloy of corresponding natural deposits.

Both of the first alloys could not win its way through the market. only the easy to produce

Erdmetall, after the renaming it Auermetall I, obtained world wide status as the flint in the lighter industry.

1909: The International Atomic weight Commission decided in favour of Urbain´s publication instead of Auer´s because Urbain handed it in earlier. The Commission of the term from Urbain Neoytterbium- known today as Ytterbium and Lutetium for the new elements.

WB01343_.gif (599 Byte)1910-1924: Search for other rare earth elements such as the element with the number 61 on the chemical elements table.

The carrying-out of large scale chemical separations in the field of radioactive substances.

The production of different preparations of Uran, Ionium (known today as Th230 isotop), a disintegration product in the Uranium-Radium-line, Polonium and Aktinium, that Auer made available, for research use, to such renowned Institutions and scientists as F.W.Aston and Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge (1921) and the "Radiuminstitut der Akademie der Wissenschaften" in Vienna.

1922: A report on his spectroscopic discoveries to the "Akademie der Wissenschaften" in Vienna.

1929:World-wide production of ligther flints reached 100,000 kg.

8th of April 1929: Carl Auer von Welsbach died at the age of 70.

Biography
About 1900