The furnace used by Henri Moissan in his experiments on reactions at high temperatures, on the fusion and volatilization of refractory materials, and on the formation of carbides, suicides and borides of various metals, consisted, in its simplest form, of two superposed blocks of lime or of limestone with a central cavity cut in the lower block, and with a corresponding but much shallower inverted cavity in the upper block, which thus formed the lid of the furnace.
Moissan showed that at this temperature the most stable of mineral combinations are dissociated, and the most refractory elements are converted into vapour, only certain borides, silicides and metallic carbides having been found to resist the action of the heat.
Alumina and lime, for example, which cannot be reduced at ordinary furnace temperatures, readily give up their oxygen to carbon in the electric furnace, and then combine with an excess of carbon to form metallic carbides.
Wirthwein, the titanium mineral is fused with carbon in the electric furnace, the carbides treated with chlorine, and the titanium chloride condensed.
Zirconium combines with sulphur to form a sulphide, and with carbon to form several carbides.