How This Vintage Lighter Works Without Creating a Single SparkSarah Zhang10/29/14 1:55pm1911EditPromoteGo to permalink In the early 20th century, smokers ruining their lungs could do so with the help of a nifty little gadget called the catalytic lighter. It looked like a small double metal tube. Put one tube in the other and voila, fire. No flint, no sparks. The secret to the catalytic lighter? Platinum.