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What Is a Lava Lamp? Complete Guide 2022

A lava lamp is the epitome of the phrase “oldie but goodie.” They were created in the 1960s and are still in use today.

A busy mind can be hypnotized into calmness by the magically moving liquid. But what is it about lava lamps that makes them so captivating? We’ll solve the mystery today.

Let’s get started:

What’s a Lava Lamp?

Edward Craven Walker invented the lava lamp in 1963. Astro was its original name.

He was inspired by a handmade egg timer he saw in a pub. The one-of-a-kind device was made up of a glass shaker filled with water and a wax ball. The heat from the pan would melt the wax, transforming it into a fascinating floating substance. That meant the egg had been cooked.

Although it wasn’t marketed as such at first, the original lava lamp became a groovy symbol and a popular countercultural decorative piece.

Lava lamps are used to create moods rather than to provide light. They don’t provide much light and are best suited to people who prefer dim lighting.

Walker patented the lava lamp design in England in 1964. In 1965, a company called “Lava Lite” expressed interest in them and purchased the rights to manufacture in the United States. The Astro lamp was renamed Lava and became a popular American home accessory.

What Is in a Lava Lamp?

The lava lamp is made up of two mutually insoluble components: water (or oil) and wax.

In his initial tests, Edward Walker used a light bulb and glass bottles. Before it took its current shape, the light fixture resembled a lantern.

Its operation hasn’t changed much over the years. The classic model is still available and is the most popular. A rocket-shaped lava lamp inspired by the space-age thrill is also available.

Vortexes and volcano eruptions are created by new designs. Lava lamps powered by candles are also available.

Schylling (US) and Mathmos (UK) now own the rights to manufacture original lava lamps. Although the exact ingredients and proportions of lava lamps are a trade secret, there are hints about what’s in them.

Let’s go a little deeper now:

The liquid component contains water or mineral oil, antifungals, and dyes. Sparkles are sometimes used to create a whimsical effect.

The whirling globs are mostly made of paraffin wax. Carbon tetrachloride is a solvent that is used to make the wax heavier. It would be too floaty otherwise.

More fascinating lava lamp facts can be found below:

How Does It Work?

Heat is produced by an incandescent light bulb at the base. The wax liquefies and loses density. Then it rises to the surface, cools, and sinks back down.

In terms of physics, here’s what happens:

Density is defined as mass divided by volume. When heated, the wax expands and begins to float. It expands in volume and thus decreases in density (because they are inversely proportional in the equation).

When the wax reaches the top, it becomes colder and denser before falling to the bottom. A convection current is a process by which liquids rise and fall due to density changes.

Both candle and electric lava lamps operate on the same principles. The movement is caused by the heat source. Simple, but powerful.

Warming up new lava lamps can take up to three hours. After a few uses, the heating time is reduced to around an hour.

How Are Lava Lamps Made?

Mathmos (founded by Edward Craven Walker) has been producing authentic lava lamps in the UK since its inception.

An intricate manufacturing process is behind such a cool interior piece:

A custom-made glass bottle with a lid holds the transparent container that holds the lava lamp fluid. Glass is mechanically blown into the desired shape, and the bottles are cooled.

Hand quality checks are performed on all custom bottles. Such inspection is critical because they must later fit perfectly into the housing. They must also withstand continuous heating and cooling.

Metal spinning is the next step in the manufacturing process; the base and cap are made of steel.

The lava lamp liquid is translucent and made up of two parts: coloured wax and the solution in which it sits. Mathmos keeps the exact formula hidden.

Here’s an interesting fact:

The fluid is poured into the bottles, along with a metal spring that aids in heat distribution. To separate the two substances, the filled bottles are placed in a hot water bath. Glue is used to secure the lids.

The last step is to put together the base, bulb, glass container, and top. And there you have it: the traditional lava lamp.

Are Lava Lamps Safe?

Lava lamps are safe to use as long as the manufacturer’s instructions are followed. Make certain that you buy your lamp from a reliable source.

First and foremost, safety! Consider the following points:

  • The area around the light should be clutter-free. Keep it away from curtains, papers, and other flammable items.
  • Lava lamps become hot after a few hours of use, so avoid touching them to avoid burns.
  • Shaking a hot lava lamp can cause skin burns or the glass to shatter.
  • To avoid overheating, it is not recommended to leave the lava lamp bulb on for more than eight hours.
  • If the blob remains at the top of the lamp for an extended period of time, it has most likely overheated. Turn it off to allow it to cool.
  • A lava lamp on a hot stovetop or heater can cause an explosion.

Lava lamps are marketed as being suitable for both children and adults. These innovative models do not overheat, and the bulb is only accessible with a tool. They use low-voltage halogen bulbs to directly heat the lava, omitting the metal base.

Final Words

Lava lamps are possibly the most recognizable home lighting fixtures in the world. They make excellent nightlights due to their softer and dimmer glow. If you want to avoid the glare of bright lights, consider using a lava lamp. The mesmerizing glob movement of the lava lamp light is soothing to look at. It’s also stylish home decor.

Hassan

I'm a content writer and writing for 5 years for multinational companies.

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