Making a lava lamp

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Govalant
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Making a lava lamp

Postby Govalant » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:40 pm UTC

How should go about it? My ingredients will be a mixture of 70% and 90% alcohol (which I think is the volume percentage of ethanol on water) and mineral oil. I'm planning to use the lamp alone to heat the lava and having a wire coil at the bottom to break the surface tension.

Any suggestions, tips or just comments are welcome. I'll post more when I start building it.
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medlii
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby medlii » Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:53 am UTC

I think the "real" lava lamps use wax that melts when it gets to the temperature of the light bulb you're using to heat it but yours should work.

I suggest adding some food coloring to color the mineral oil- you should probably only need a few drops.

Post pictures and let us know how it works! I love do it yourself type experiments!

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Omegaton
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Omegaton » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:54 am UTC

I don't know much about these chemicals, but isn't that a fire hazard?

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Govalant
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Govalant » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:24 am UTC

Omegaton wrote:I don't know much about these chemicals, but isn't that a fire hazard?


It's a GREAT fire hazard. That's why I will be extremely careful and test the thing thoroughly.

medlii wrote:I think the "real" lava lamps use wax that melts when it gets to the temperature of the light bulb you're using to heat it but yours should work.

I suggest adding some food coloring to color the mineral oil- you should probably only need a few drops.

Post pictures and let us know how it works! I love do it yourself type experiments!


About the food colorant, yes, I thought of that. I'm thinking green water and transparent lava.

Food colorant for the mineral oil? I though it was soluble in water, so it was insoluble in oil. I will buy some and try it later.

Also, the stuff commercial lava lamps use is a trade secret, but this should work nicely. I already 'tested' this by adding a few drops of oil in water and ethanol. I added ethanol until the oil seemed very light and then heated the glass it was in in some hot water. The water level was kind of low, and when I removed the glass to see it, the oil was stuck in the middle. So at least I know now that this effect can be achieved easily.

(The lamp is meant as a gift, so the colors are the ones she likes. Also that's the reason I will test this so much.)
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Adacore » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:15 pm UTC

The potential problem I see with the testing is that it may not cover the 'someone knocks it off the table, the lamp shatters... what happens?' scenario.

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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Drax » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:52 pm UTC

Not that I doubt you or anything, but if you are going to make this thing, test it in a blast-proof box or something... I had a buddy who thought the same thing as you, and one day he left it on for too long (like 6 hours) and it pretty much exploded, sending the ingredients and glass container shards all over his room.

To top it off, some of the ingredients (probably the alcohol) hit a candle flame that was about 6 feet away and burst into flame. Luckily, it was only a bit and didn't burn the house down, but it could have.

In retrospect, I don't know why he thought it was a good idea to have a candle in the same room as the lava lamp...
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Josephine » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:37 pm UTC

If you want to see the results of overheating, Mythbusters did it.
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Govalant
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Govalant » Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:44 pm UTC

Well, you succeded in scaring me with the alcohol/mineral oil lamp, so I decided to build a wax one.

Basic formula is water and a mix of wax and perchloroethylene as the lava. The perchloroethylne (from now on, perc) is for making the wax denser, and getting it as close as possible to the density of the water.

I already bought 1kg of candle wax, colorants, and a thermometer. The store didn't have any perc, but they told me they'd get it by tomorrow. When I get the perc and some distilled water I'll start performing some experiments. For today, I'm just going to find the right color for the wax. (Changed my mind again, it will be light blue wax on clear water).

I have the design for the lamp drawn out, but it will probably change when I find the container for the lava. I will take care of that tomorrow.
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Colorant for the wax.
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The thermometer. It ranges -10 to 200 celsius.
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Minchandre » Wed Aug 05, 2009 7:51 am UTC

Govalant wrote:Well, you succeded in scaring me with the alcohol/mineral oil lamp, so I decided to build a wax one.

Basic formula is water and a mix of wax and perchloroethylene as the lava. The perchloroethylne (from now on, perc) is for making the wax denser, and getting it as close as possible to the density of the water.

I already bought 1kg of candle wax, colorants, and a thermometer. The store didn't have any perc, but they told me they'd get it by tomorrow. When I get the perc and some distilled water I'll start performing some experiments. For today, I'm just going to find the right color for the wax. (Changed my mind again, it will be light blue wax on clear water).

I have the design for the lamp drawn out, but it will probably change when I find the container for the lava. I will take care of that tomorrow.


Much sounder plan. Even better than perc might be petroleum jelly, which is basically just really long chain hydrocarbons. You may need to heat the wax and petroleum jelly to combine them, but the same idea should apply. Petroleum jelly is just probably cheaper.

Take pictures!

Also, if you do your lamp just right, I don't think you need your wire coil at the bottom - the wax should heat sufficiently before actually contacting the bottom of your vessel.

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Govalant
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Govalant » Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:22 pm UTC

Minchandre wrote:Much sounder plan. Even better than perc might be petroleum jelly, which is basically just really long chain hydrocarbons. You may need to heat the wax and petroleum jelly to combine them, but the same idea should apply. Petroleum jelly is just probably cheaper.

Take pictures!

Also, if you do your lamp just right, I don't think you need your wire coil at the bottom - the wax should heat sufficiently before actually contacting the bottom of your vessel.


I've already ordered the perc, but I might experiment later to show the difference between the two. I also don't think the wire coil will be necessary, in fact I saw a youtube video of a lava lamp in an erlenmeyer flask that didn't have one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAJG8jh2SJA&NR=1)
I will take pics!

EDIT: Wait, it seems petroleum jelly is less dense than water. Did you make a mistake or does something weird happen like in water and ethanol? (A mixture of 1l water and 1l ethanol does not make 2l, but something around 1.92l IIRC)
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Minchandre
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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Minchandre » Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:14 am UTC

Govalant wrote:EDIT: Wait, it seems petroleum jelly is less dense than water. Did you make a mistake or does something weird happen like in water and ethanol? (A mixture of 1l water and 1l ethanol does not make 2l, but something around 1.92l IIRC)


That would be a mistake. Oops. Teach me to post when I've, um, been, uh...

Hey look, a bird!

Honestly, if you've got the perc, use it: it's easy to work with, it's nontoxic...just don't accidentally polymerize it or something. Keep it away from UV light, then, I guess?

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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Inspignant » Sun Dec 31, 2017 9:56 am UTC

Your kidding right? perchloroethylene is carcinogenic and has been known to cause cancer among many other things. It's used in brakleen, dry cleaning.......

I made a very large lava lamp back in 1999 for a dance club that came out like the originals. The perc is used to change the specific gravity of the wax. When it's near the bottom and heated by the coil it becomes lighter than water which makes it rise. When it starts its upward motion the specific gravity slowly changes back to its natural state and becomes heavier.

You can change how this reaction occurs by adjusting the amount of perc or wax until you get the results you want.

Not all commercial lamps use wax, newer ones use ferrofluid.

Be safe and do your research before attempting this. Don't just read some message boards hoping that someone is giving you good information.

Attempt at your own risk.

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Re: Making a lava lamp

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:07 am UTC

Inspignant wrote:Your kidding right? perchloroethylene is carcinogenic and has been known to cause cancer among many other things. It's used in brakleen, dry cleaning.......

The fact that it is used in dry cleaning should suggest to you that it is comparatively safe, not comparatively dangerous. Unless you try to protect your clothes from dry cleaners.

I made a very large lava lamp back in 1999 for a dance club that came out like the originals. The perc is used to change the specific gravity of the wax. When it's near the bottom and heated by the coil it becomes lighter than water which makes it rise. When it starts its upward motion the specific gravity slowly changes back to its natural state and becomes heavier.

Yes, this is a basic description of the device that Archimedes could understand.

You can change how this reaction occurs by adjusting the amount of perc or wax until you get the results you want.

There is no reaction. This is a purely physical process, like the drinking bird.

Not all commercial lamps use wax, newer ones use ferrofluid.

[citation needed]

Attempt at your own risk.

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