The term ‘crucible’ goes beyond Arthur Miller’s fiction about the Salem Witch Trials and its subsequent cinema. It is a tool that plays a huge role in the smelting and chemical analysis process. It’s also been around for a very long time.
Many experts believe that humans started using crucibles during the Chalcolithic Period or the Copper Age sometime in 7000 BC in the Near East.
The period comes right after the Stone Age (Neolithic), where humans used stones to survive, such as when cutting meats or defending themselves from predators. They learned to grind and hammer the stones to create unique shapes during this time, as well.
By the Chalcolithic Period, though, they started using copper as a supplement or alternative to the polished stones. The material, they found, was more durable and just as efficient. Early humans also discovered that when exposed to heat, copper melts, allowing them to fashion it into various shapes. The creation of crucibles followed as they needed a vessel that could hold the molten material.
Crucibles are still used for smelting today. It is, however, no longer its only application. One of its biggest markets is chemical laboratories. These places have to deal with a variety of compounds and materials that may require heat to get the desired results. For example, you can use the crucibles for ash content determination.
The shape and make of the crucibles, as well as its cover, can differ according to use. Crucibles used during ancient times were usually shallow and featured handles to make them easier to control. The concept of chemical analysis wasn’t developed yet, so this vessel was mainly to observe the smelting process and to make sure that the impurities in the metal were removed.
Today, manufacturers depend on various materials that can resist high temperatures to make crucibles, such as titanium and zirconium. Although they share heat-resistant properties, they are not the same. Zirconium crucibles from companies like Winward Engineering LTD, for instance, are best for the analysis of corrosive agents.