Self-heating Food Packaging - Heating Methods

Heating Methods

Commercial heat sources for self-heating food packaging use an exothermic reaction between quicklime, or calcium oxide, and water, which generates 60 calories of heat per gram. Quicklime, inexpensive and readily available, is generally recognized by the FDA as safe. The by-product of the reaction is calcium hydroxide.

For the military's Meals Ready to Eat or the flameless ration heater, the military uses a magnesium and iron heater. Water activates the heater, which generates heat of 310 calories per gram. Hydrogen is released as a byproduct. Civilian versions are available; it is rarely possible to buy packets individually from legitimate sellers.

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