Are you mesmerised by the dynamic lava lamp?
- A lava lamp is an ornamental accessory, that consists of two liquids of different densities, that is illuminated to create a glow and an interesting ambience in a room.
- ‘Lava lamps’ are also known as ‘liquid motion lamps’, ‘bubble lamps’, ‘Astro lamps’ and ‘Lava Lite lamps’.
- The main elements of a lava lamp are typically a wax or oil solution, suspended in water in a glass container, that is heated by an electric bulb concealed underneath.
- The appeal of lava lamps comes from the colourful blobs (wax solution) in the lamp, rising and falling, and the lamps come in a wide variety of colours and stereotypically have a futuristic shape.
- Lava lamps function by the wax mixture expanding as it heats up, resulting in it having a reduced density that causes rising, and when the mixture rises it moves into a cooler zone, causing the blobs or bubbles to contract and sink.
Image courtesy of Dean Hochman/Flickr
- The original inventor of lava lamps was British motor engineer, Donald Dunnet, who was inspired by his own earlier creation of an egg timer, and he made an application for its patent in 1950, which was granted in 1954.
- The invention of the lava lamp is commonly attributed to British naturist and film producer, Edward Craven Walker, who improved on and commercialised Donald Dunnet’s invention in 1963, after seeing one in a pub.
- Care should be take while handling or transporting lava lamps when they are warm, as the liquids in the lamp can combine together if disturbed, causing it to become cloudy.
- Lava lamps were originally sold by Edward Walker’s company, Crestworth Ltd, as ‘Astro Lamps’, and the company’s name later changed to ‘Mathmos’, while in the United States they have been made and sold since 1965 by Lava Lite, and the original model was called ‘Century’.
- The first appearance of a lava lamp on television was in the Doctor Who series in the 1960s, which helped the invention grow in popularity into the 1970s, and the lamps made a significant comeback in the 1990s, while new variations have since become available.