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spontaneous combustion

noun
1.
the ignition of a substance or body from the rapid oxidation of its own constituents without heat from any external source.
Origin
1800-1810
1800-10
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for spontaneous-combustion

spontaneous combustion

noun
1.
the ignition of a substance or body as a result of internal oxidation processes, without the application of an external source of heat, occurring in finely powdered ores, coal, straw, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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spontaneous-combustion in Science
spontaneous combustion  
The bursting into flame of a mass of material as a result of chemical reactions within the substance, without the addition of heat from an external source. Oily rags and damp hay, for example, are subject to spontaneous combustion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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spontaneous-combustion in Culture

spontaneous combustion definition


A process by which a collection of materials (such as oily rags) catches fire without the application of heat from outside. The oxidation of substances in the materials starts the fire.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for spontaneous-combustion

spontaneous combustion

the outbreak of fire without application of heat from an external source. Spontaneous combustion may occur when combustible matter, such as hay or coal, is stored in bulk. It begins with a slow oxidation process (as bacterial fermentation or atmospheric oxidation) under conditions not permitting ready dissipation of heat-e.g., in the centre of a haystack or a pile of oily rags. Oxidation gradually raises the temperature inside the mass to the point at which a fire starts. Crops are commonly dried before storage or, during storage, by forced circulation of air, to prevent spontaneous combustion by inhibiting fermentation. For the same reason, soft coal in small size is wetted to suppress aerial oxidation.

Learn more about spontaneous combustion with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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