What is Inside Lava Lamps and How Lava Lamp Was Created?

What is inside lava lamps? How dangerous is it? To find out more, check out this article before you purchase this beautiful home decoration

Lava lamps are always nice to look at, especially in the dark. They started as something unique and rather psychedelic back in the 1960s. Red, blue, green, or anything in between does not matter. For the curious ones, you are probably wondering: What is inside lava lamps?

How Lava Lamp Was Created

If you have seen how water and oil work in one container, then that is the idea for a lava lamp. In this case, water and wax are the main ingredients to make one. They are not the only stuff that we need, however. To heat the wax, you need a light bulb at the bottom of the lamp.

Then, what happens when the wax is heated? The shape of it changes. At first, it still looks so dense, much denser than the water. It stays still at the bottom of the container.

Gradually, like a helium balloon being blown up, it gets lighter and starts to float. Once it floats right up to the top of the container, its temperature goes down again. When it cools off, the wax slowly returns to the bottom of the container. It goes on like that as long as there is still power.

How Lava Lamp Flows

As mentioned earlier, lava lamp cannot work without these two (2) important components:

1. Liquid.

2. Wax.

The wax consists of paraffin and PERC, which is short for “perchloroethylene.” PERC is commonly used for dry cleaning and as a brake part fluid. This wax is later known as the “lava.”

Then how about the liquid part? It is not just pure water. It is water mixed with pure salt, a coloring agent, and an antifreeze called ethylene glycol. With a glass container that is heat-resistant and 40-watt light bulb, you are all set.

To make this mixture work, seal all the existing ingredients inside that heat-resistant glass container. (It can be a bottle or else.) Then place the container upon the heat source, which is the 40-watt light bulb.

Of course, to get the mixture right, you need to calibrate the ratio between the liquid with the wax part. How much is too much? Unfortunately, it happens to be a trade secret.

However, if you are patient enough to experiment by yourself (or lucky enough to find any tips), then it will not be long before you can start creating your lava lamp.

Once the mixture is inside, and the wax is molten, you must not shake it (especially violently) or knock it over. Both liquids will emulsify. You will get a cloudy or hazy shade instead of clear, nice-looking blobs inside.

To return the mixture into separate beings and combine them again also take time. In some cases, you need to wait it out for a few hours. Let the wax settle down at the bottom as a single blob again.

The latest lava lamp design consisted of ferrofluid instead of wax. That was made in 2015.

From Classic to Modern Lava Lamps

From time to time, lava lamps have come in various models. The classic ones (which are still used by those who are into the authentic stuff of the 60s) uses a standard halogen lamp or incandescent bulb. That is why the tall bottles used as containers are mostly tapered.

A US patent in 1968 revealed that the old-fashioned lava lamps used water and a mixture of paraffin, wax, and carbon tetrachloride. To color the water or mineral oil, many people use dyes.

However, the use of carbon tetrachloride was banned in the 1970s because it had been proven to be toxic.

Speaking of Toxic Cases…

Yes, you have heard it right. As fun as it looks, lava lamps can be deadly too.

In 2004, a lava lamp had taken the life of 24-year-old Philip Quinn. This resident of Kent, Washington, was found dead in his trailer home. Based on the report from the ME (medical examiner), it had had something to do with his lava lamp.

Long tragic story short, Quinn had somehow been placing his lava lamp right on the burning stove. Whether it had been his dangerous experiment or just him being clueless, the lava lamp soon exploded. Glass shards had flown his direction, stabbing him to death.

Another thing about lava lamp is the hot liquid as well. As shown in an episode of “The Mythbusters,” the hot liquid can cause severe burns if it is splashed on you. These two examples are perfect as fair warnings:

Use a maximum of 40-watt light bulb only to heat your lava lamp.

So, now you know what is inside lava lamps. You can use any color dyes to vary yours if you have plenty of them. You can have any size that you want as part of your home decoration.

Never have any dangerous experiments, if you do not wish to get killed by what is inside lava lamps.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava_lamp#cite_note-10

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/lava-lamp-death/

https://myria.com/whats-inside-lava-lamps-and-how-do-they-work

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