Catalytic / Self-Starting Lighters
As applicable to lighters, heat or flame is produced when a fuel (alcohol / methanol vapor) is brought in contact with platinum. This causes the platinum to produce a great deal of heat quickly and this heat typically (though not always) ignites the fuel - though sometimes the heat produced is used to light a cigarette more directly rather than producing a flame.
A number of brands of catalytic lighters were made over the years though the best known may be the New Method. Master-Lite had a nearly identical lighter for sale in 1928 and Jiffy-Lite in the late 1930s. Other forerunners to New Method lighters include Steinreich Instanto 1906, Auto Igniter, B-H, and C.E.W. patented 1907, Platina c. 1907, Lytic c. 1910, Hera c. 1910, Vulcan c. 1910, Master-Lite 19teens through 1920s., Ray-O-Lite c. 1920, Shell Fire c. mid-1940s. There were a number of other brands, too, including Janus (Germany c. 1920s), Jiffy-Lite (late 1930s)
Other catalytic lighters of a different type include Lektrolite, GloLite, and Airflam.