What Is a Spirit Lamp and What Does It Do?
Just like an oil lamp burns oil, a spirit lamp burns spirits, such as ethyl alcohol. Thus, a spirit lamp is also known as an alcohol lamp or an alcohol burner. You can find them as a regular part of laboratory equipment.
Many are made with glass or metal and have a wick sticking out the top, which, when lit, produces an open flame creating both light and heat.
How Does a Spirit Lamp Work?
When using an alcohol burner, you need to use caution because you’re handling an open flame. Also, the alcohol you use releases a tiny amount of carbon monoxide, so ventilation is necessary.
You also need to make sure there are no cracks in your spirit lamp for safety reasons and ensure your spirit lamp’s proper function. Many of the alcohol lamps out there use pressure from the alcohol as it reacts to changes in temperature to get the fuel up the wick and power the lamp’s flame.
What Kind of Alcohol Goes in an Alcohol Lamp?
The best alcohol for your spirit lamp is denatured alcohol or ethyl alcohol. Denatured alcohol is actually about 5% methanol, with the rest being ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is also known as grain alcohol. When it comes to alcohol for your spirit lamp, you can also use isopropyl alcohol as well.
No matter which alcohol you choose to use in your spirit lamp, make sure that it’s at least 90% alcohol for the most effective fuel.
What Are the Uses of a Spirit Lamp?
Spirit lamps are used primarily in laboratories to heat and sterilize objects before use. You can also use it for combustion inside a laboratory as well.
Outside the laboratory, an alcohol lamp is an excellent addition to bring along when hiking or backpacking due to its compact design, especially for times when
you want light but not a lot of heat.
What Is the Difference Between a Bunsen Burner and a Spirit Lamp?
The primary difference between a bunsen burner and a spirit lamp is the bunsen burner uses gas for fuel while the spirit lamp uses alcohol. They both produce an open flame, but a bunsen burner flame will be blue and a spirit lamp flame yellow.
The bunsen burner also burns hotter than a spirit lamp and produces smoke, and can leave a residue on the burner itself, which can be dangerous when lighting.
How Do You Light a Spirit Burner?
- Be very careful when lighting an alcohol burner so as not to injure yourself
- Fill the lamp with a suitable alcohol
- Screw on the cap
- Use a lighter or match to light the wick
- Give it a few minutes for the alcohol to travel up the wick
- If the wick keeps going out, make sure your wick isn’t too tight in the cap preventing alcohol from climbing the wick.
- After use smother with a snuffer cover
Where Do You Buy Spirit Lamps?
Since spirit lamps get used mostly in laboratories and the medical field, you can buy them at most places that sell laboratory equipment. You can also look at online stores like Amazon. Or use a spirit lamp tutorial to make one yourself.