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Old 09-25-2009, 12:05 AM   #1
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Default OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

For the last 2 years I have stopped filling my lighters with expensive triple and quadruple refined Visol, Vector, Lava, King et. al.
Paying $5 - $8 for a 6 ounce can bugged me. Don't worry; I didn't risk ruining my lighters with cheap unrefined Ronson or the equivalent..
I have been filling my lighters with isobutane or isobutane blends instead, and have had excellent results.

Here's some chemist's description of the difference between butane and isobutane: "butane and isobutane are isomers of each other. Butane is a single chain whereas isobutane is made of a shorter chain with a branch.
Basically, the same atoms make the molecules but they are arranged differently"


Isobutane has a lower boiling point, higher pressure, and burns more efficiently than than the N-butane (lighter fluid butane). Isobutane works better in low temperatures than N-butane, and by adding a bit of propane to the blend (with its -43F boiling point) you further enhance cold weather performance.

Brunton makes a very pricey lighter for backpackers and climbers called the Helios. For a while they bundled it with their Fueltool that allowed you to fill it with their Bruntane fuel. I was intrigued by the concept, and found Primus also made a product "Filling Adapter" just like the Fueltool; allowing one to adapt a Lindal valve fuel canister to a lighter refill valve. I bought the Primus one since it was a couple bucks cheaper at the time. I checked prices on the adapters tonight and they fell between $14 and $20.



These isobutane/isobutane blend canisters have a Lindal valve and are available at Sporting Goods Stores and Camping stores and should run <$4 for an 8 ounce can. The percentages vary brand to brand. (I listed the percentages on the ones I could find easily). I have personally used MSR, Jetboil, and Snow Peak brands in my lighters.

MSR Iso Pro 80/20 isobutane/propane
JetBoil Jetpower ??/?? propane/isobutane
Brunton Brutane 80/20 isobutane/propane
Snow Peak Gigapower 65/35 isobutane/propane
I avoid these brands as they have butane / isobutane blends
Primus Powergas Propane/Isobutane/Butane Blend (25 % propane/25 % isobutane/50 % butane)
Coleman Butane/Propane Fuel 70% butane and 30% propane


I tested the fuel in cheap lighters first, but now use this fuel in my Dupont X-Tend lighters too. Here is the only minus I have found from the switch: this fuel seems "rich" to me and may require more oxygen to burn; you can't "prime" the lighter by allowing fuel to leak before sparking. I have best results clicking the igniter quickly so max oxygen is available. On one lighter with a deeply recessed nozzle, I find I need to move the lighter a bit when I spark it. Other than this I have not needed to adjust, clean, or even purge any of my lighters since I made the switch.
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Old 09-25-2009, 12:50 AM   #2
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Very cool Matt! Thanks for the info
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Old 09-25-2009, 01:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Very interesting, Thanks Matt!
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:04 AM   #4
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

this is will look into
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Old 09-25-2009, 02:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Interesting, thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-25-2009, 10:12 AM   #6
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

For us Canadians that are interested, I just saw that MEC has the fueltool for $13.50

I think I will be shopping my next trip to the city
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Old 09-25-2009, 01:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Great idea Matt. I'll have to check out this set-up when we herf together next.
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Old 09-30-2009, 02:12 PM   #8
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Quote:
Originally Posted by volfan View Post
Nice tip, Matt. Did anyone ever tell you that you have a similar writing style to TXMatt?
That hack has been copying me for years!
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Old 09-30-2009, 02:17 PM   #9
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Interesting. Thanks.

What fuel did you see the best results with?
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Old 09-30-2009, 02:23 PM   #10
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Probably won't work at my altitude since there's even less oxygen. Lighters are a tricky thing here.
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Old 09-30-2009, 02:28 PM   #11
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Great info Thanks Matt for sharing
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Old 09-30-2009, 04:21 PM   #12
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Interesting...thanks for the tip!
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Old 09-30-2009, 05:14 PM   #13
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Thanks for the information Matt!

(if it's out there us cigar smoker's will find it!)
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Old 09-30-2009, 07:57 PM   #14
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

A butane / propane mixture will have several times the pressure within its storage tank as butane alone. This alone means that there will be considerably more energy (BTUs in English units) coming out of the orifice. So:

a/ users should be careful since it may produce a much longer flame.
b/ try turning down the flame, if its adjustable.

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Old 10-01-2009, 08:02 AM   #15
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Quote:
Originally Posted by OHMatt View Post
Here is the only minus I have found from the switch: this fuel seems "rich" to me and may require more oxygen to burn; you can't "prime" the lighter by allowing fuel to leak before sparking. I have best results clicking the igniter quickly so max oxygen is available. On one lighter with a deeply recessed nozzle, I find I need to move the lighter a bit when I spark it. Other than this I have not needed to adjust, clean, or even purge any of my lighters since I made the switch.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wharf Rat View Post
A butane / propane mixture will have several times the pressure within its storage tank as butane alone. This alone means that there will be considerably more energy (BTUs in English units) coming out of the orifice.
Neat idea, I'm always in favor of saving a few bucks.

A quick look at the chemistry says there's really not much difference in heat produced, or oxygen requirements on a pound per pound basis. The difference is entirely in the pressure, at room temp isoButane is ~45% higher than n-Butane. So you're getting considerably more gas out of your lighter using the higher pressure fuel, confirming your guess that it runs rich, and why moving the lighter around helps combustion. It also suggests you'll be using more fuel (unless you can adjust your lighter) per light. Since you're in a rich environment, I'd guess using these fuels will actually have lower combustion efficiency than n-Butane.

Propane has an even higher pressure, so I'd guess this 'running rich' problem would be more prevalent in the blends with higher amounts of propane.

On that same note, the blends with n-Butane in the mix should have a lower pressure, and lower oxygen requirement (though still higher than neat n-Butane). If the reason for switching to one of these camp fuel gases over the 23x distilled cigar lighter gas is purely economical, why not try these blends? Assuming the fuel is clean and extreme cold weather performance isn't your goal, they may actually work better than the 80/20 blends. Especially in a lower oxygen environment.

On the other hand, if you can adjust the flame down, you may get better performance with lower fuel usage (comparable to 'regular' n-Butane).

But that's a lot of guessing on my part and my coffee hasn't kicked in yet, so I could be wrong. I might need to get a few Ronsons and a couple cans of fuel and have some fun with this

Edit: Just another thought, I wonder if the higher pressure might increase reliability in windy environments, i.e. make the flame more 'wind proof'?
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Old 10-01-2009, 11:31 AM   #16
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark C View Post
Neat idea, I'm always in favor of saving a few bucks.

A quick look at the chemistry says there's really not much difference in heat produced, or oxygen requirements on a pound per pound basis. The difference is entirely in the pressure, at room temp isoButane is ~45% higher than n-Butane. So you're getting considerably more gas out of your lighter using the higher pressure fuel, confirming your guess that it runs rich, and why moving the lighter around helps combustion. It also suggests you'll be using more fuel (unless you can adjust your lighter) per light. Since you're in a rich environment, I'd guess using these fuels will actually have lower combustion efficiency than n-Butane.

Propane has an even higher pressure, so I'd guess this 'running rich' problem would be more prevalent in the blends with higher amounts of propane.

On that same note, the blends with n-Butane in the mix should have a lower pressure, and lower oxygen requirement (though still higher than neat n-Butane). If the reason for switching to one of these camp fuel gases over the 23x distilled cigar lighter gas is purely economical, why not try these blends? Assuming the fuel is clean and extreme cold weather performance isn't your goal, they may actually work better than the 80/20 blends. Especially in a lower oxygen environment.

On the other hand, if you can adjust the flame down, you may get better performance with lower fuel usage (comparable to 'regular' n-Butane).

But that's a lot of guessing on my part and my coffee hasn't kicked in yet, so I could be wrong. I might need to get a few Ronsons and a couple cans of fuel and have some fun with this

Edit: Just another thought, I wonder if the higher pressure might increase reliability in windy environments, i.e. make the flame more 'wind proof'?
Since the orifice (hole) size for the lighter is fixed, a higher pressure means that the flow rate through the orifice will be greater. For a flame to establish and hold on the orifice, the velocity of the fuel must lie in the correct range. If the higher pressure increases the velocity too much, the flame will "blow off."
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Old 10-01-2009, 11:55 AM   #17
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Lots of good questions there, and I have been having fun experimenting.

The main reason I haven't considered the blends containing n-Butane is that there isn't a way to tell if it is refined.. But then again the isoButane and Propane could be "dirty" in the 80/20 blends and it is only the higher pressure that is keeping my lighters clog free. Perhaps I will give the n-butane blends a try soon.

If like me you can't find Ronson lighters at your nearby Wally World DX lighters are super cheap (but take several weeks to arrive). I used these 2 DX lighters in my initial experiments with the new fuel:
http://dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1455
http://dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1456

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark C View Post
Neat idea, I'm always in favor of saving a few bucks.

A quick look at the chemistry says there's really not much difference in heat produced, or oxygen requirements on a pound per pound basis. The difference is entirely in the pressure, at room temp isoButane is ~45% higher than n-Butane. So you're getting considerably more gas out of your lighter using the higher pressure fuel, confirming your guess that it runs rich, and why moving the lighter around helps combustion. It also suggests you'll be using more fuel (unless you can adjust your lighter) per light. Since you're in a rich environment, I'd guess using these fuels will actually have lower combustion efficiency than n-Butane.

Propane has an even higher pressure, so I'd guess this 'running rich' problem would be more prevalent in the blends with higher amounts of propane.

On that same note, the blends with n-Butane in the mix should have a lower pressure, and lower oxygen requirement (though still higher than neat n-Butane). If the reason for switching to one of these camp fuel gases over the 23x distilled cigar lighter gas is purely economical, why not try these blends? Assuming the fuel is clean and extreme cold weather performance isn't your goal, they may actually work better than the 80/20 blends. Especially in a lower oxygen environment.

On the other hand, if you can adjust the flame down, you may get better performance with lower fuel usage (comparable to 'regular' n-Butane).

But that's a lot of guessing on my part and my coffee hasn't kicked in yet, so I could be wrong. I might need to get a few Ronsons and a couple cans of fuel and have some fun with this

Edit: Just another thought, I wonder if the higher pressure might increase reliability in windy environments, i.e. make the flame more 'wind proof'?
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Old 10-01-2009, 12:05 PM   #18
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wharf Rat View Post
Since the orifice (hole) size for the lighter is fixed, a higher pressure means that the flow rate through the orifice will be greater. For a flame to establish and hold on the orifice, the velocity of the fuel must lie in the correct range. If the higher pressure increases the velocity too much, the flame will "blow off."
lol..... What do you know about Alkanes as a source of fuel?








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Old 10-01-2009, 05:15 PM   #19
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Quote:
Originally Posted by St. Lou Stu View Post
lol..... What do you know about Alkanes as a source of fuel?

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Old 08-26-2010, 11:02 PM   #20
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Default Re: OHMatt's lighter fluid: isoButane

Bumping this up as Matt was talking about this tonight. I hate chemistry, but might try this out.
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