Lamps that produce light as a result of an exothermic reaction between the vapor of a solid, liquid, or gaseous fuel, consisting of hydrocarbons and oxygen.
Types of Combustion Lamps
Torches, oil lamps, candles, and gas lamps all are combustion types of lamps. The light comes from the flame that is the result of a reaction between oxygen and the vapor of a solid fuel in the case of candles, of a liquid fuel in the case of oil lamps, and of a gaseous fuel in the case of gas lamps. A spark is needed for starting the reaction.
The combustion reaction vitiates the atmosphere by consuming oxygen and returning carbon dioxide (CO2). Non-complete combustion leads to the emission of harmful gasses like carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
The industrial revolution some 200–250 years ago asked for artificial lighting in industrial premises, and in that period a boom in new developments in the technology of oil lamps is seen, followed by developments of completely new lighting products, such as gas lighting and later electrical lighting. Until the end of the nineteenth century, oil lamps have been in general use, especially for domestic lighting.
Materials and Construction
Vegetal or animal oil, rich in carbon, is used. The type was dependent on the availability in the actual region. In warm areas vegetal oil was made from olives, coconuts, and palms and in more moderate climate regions, from colza, linseeds, and rapeseeds. Animal oil was obtained from fish, whale, or domestic animals. Especially sperm whales were hunted and slaughtered for oil obtained from their head cavities. Around 1850 kerosene (also referred to as paraffin oil) was produced from crude oil (also referred to as petroleum) through a refining distillation process. Quickly it became the standard fuel for oil lamps which became known under the names of paraffin, kerosene, or petroleum lamps.
The Fuel Reservoir or Lantern
Simple oil lamps have a lumen output of about 10 lumen and a luminous efficacy (based on heat release) of some 0.1 lm/W [5, 6]. The mixture of light from incomplete combustion and incandescence of carbon particles results in a correlated color temperature of approximately 2,000 K .
Argand and moderator type of oil lamps have a lumen output in the range of 50–200 lumen (comparable to 5–25 W incandescent lamp) with an efficacy of 0.1–0.3 lm/W.
Oil lamps equipped with a gas mantle may raise the lumen output to more than 500 lumen with an efficacy of 0.5–1 lm/W (more than 1.5 lm/W for the pressurized types). The correlated color temperature increases to some 2,700 K.
Candles came in use much later than oil lamps. Spillage of oil and the associated risk of fire have always been a problem with oil lamps. With the invention of the candle made of non-fluid material, the spillage problem was solved albeit not the risk for fire. The candle was less fragile than the oil lamp and therefore more easily portable. The Romans, from the time of the birth of Christ onwards, have been responsible for the dissemination of the candle throughout Europe and the Middle East . Today candles are mainly used for devotion and for ambience lighting. Annual retail sales in the USA of candles, today, exceed five billion pieces (calculated based on ).
Materials and Construction
The Candle Substance
The first candles were made of hard animal fat (tallow) or of beeswax. Wax candles were of much better quality but also much more expensive. From the end of the eighteenth century, the use of relatively cheap fat from the spermaceti organ in the head of sperm whales improved the quality of candles. Standardized candles on this basis were used as standards for light intensity: the candlepower (only in 1948 the SI unit candela came into use with a value roughly equal to one candlepower). Around 1830 stearin, obtained by chemical treatment of animal or vegetal fat or oil, was added which increased the melting point and consequently reduced dripping of candle fat. Around 1850 candles became much cheaper because of the use of solid paraffin, a distillation product from crude oil. At that time however gas lighting was already, at many places, the source of lighting.
By dipping the wick repeatedly in molten candle substance
By pouring molten candle substance in a glass container
By pouring molten candle substance in molts
By drawing soft candle substance through a hole (machinally)
The first candles had a wick made of a piece of wood, cord, or animal skin. Around 1800 the braided cotton wick was introduced that reduced the disturbing smoke that accompanied burning candles. The braided wick can have a stiff core, originally made of lead and later of zinc, of paper, or today of synthetic fibers. Most wicks are impregnated with wax to facilitate ignition. Early wicks had to be trimmed regularly. Later wicks got such a structure that they bend and their residues dip into the molten fuel and are completely consumed so that trimming is not needed.
To reduce the risk of fire but especially to enable the use of candles outside, candles were used in lanterns made of perforated metal sheet or with windows of animal horn or glass. Only from the eighteenth century onwards candle lanterns sometimes were equipped with mirrors or lenses to concentrate the light in certain directions.
Monumental buildings and homes of the rich were lit with luxurious candle chandeliers, sometimes decorated with pieces of cut glass that made the light sparkle. In contrast to oil lamps, candles were only for a very limited period used for street lighting.
The light and color properties of the candle are similar to those of simple oil lamps. The lumen output of a candle flame is approximately 10 lm and its luminous efficacy 0.1 lm/W [5, 6]. The correlated color temperature is around 1,900 K .
Oil lamps and candles are light sources where the energy or fuel is stored in the lamp itself. Gas lamps were the first lamps where the energy is distributed to the lamps from a central energy depot at a centralized remote location. The challenge was not only to develop the lamp itself but also the development of town-sized gas production and distribution systems. In 1785 demonstrated the Dutch Jan Pieter Mickelers the use of coal gas to produce light by lighting his lecture room at the university of Leuven with gaslight. The first to make a public demonstration of gas lighting was the Scot William Murdoch when he in 1802 installed a gas pipe network with gas burners for the lighting of the facades of a range of buildings of James Watt’s Soho factory in Birmingham [1, 2, 6]. Oil and candle lighting was quickly replaced by gas lighting, first in street lighting and industrial premises, quickly followed in domestic areas of the rich. In 1875 the new Paris opera got some 45 km of gas pipe with 960 gas lights connected to it.
With the introduction of electric incandescent lamps in 1880, some 75 years after the first use of gas lighting, the use of gas lighting decreased quickly. Even today however, in some cities in the Western world, gas lighting for street lighting is still in use. The city of Berlin, for example, uses some 40,000 gas lanterns.
Materials and Construction
Gas for lighting was sometimes produced by heating animal fats or vegetal oil but mostly by heating coal. When the latter is done in an air-free atmosphere, in cast iron retorts, the percentage of methane in the gas is higher, resulting in a better combustion and therefore in more light. After its original application, this type of gas was named “illuminating gas.” Illuminating gas produces whiter light than the blue light of natural gas (only after the invention of the gas mantle – see next section – also natural gas could be used for gas lights). The gas was stored in huge gas storage tanks or gasometers, in some cities preserved as historic landmarks.
Open Flame Burner
The first burners, so-called open flame burners, were simply a hole or a series of holes at the end of a pipe. The double concentric tube burner with glass chimney, as used since the end of the eighteenth century by Argand for his oil burners, was often used for open flame gas burners as well. It was realized that the higher the temperature of the flame, the larger the lumen output of the flame would be. In 1858 William Sugg therefore introduced burners made from non-heat-conducting steatite that became hotter than heat-conducting metal burners.
The gas mantle improved both the light output and efficacy of gas lamps considerably because thorium and cerium oxides produce more light in the visible spectrum range than a black body at the same temperature does (selective radiation). The gas mantle invention has stretched the actual use of gas lighting well into the era of the first 50 years of electrical lighting.
Around 1880 the so-called regenerative gas light systems further improved the efficiency of gas lamp systems. The heated air produced by the flame is guided such that it preheats the incoming air needed for combustion. Often this principle was applied with inverted gas mantle burners in which the heat of the flame is better retained in the mantle.
Later, gas lanterns had for remote ignition a pilot lamp connected through a bypass to the main gas pipe. Gas supply was remotely controlled by gas valves actuated by gas pressure or by a mechanical clockwork built into the lantern. From 1900 onwards remote gas igniters came on the market which did not need a pilot light. A platinum sponge, existing of a porous mass of finely divided platinum, initiates a flame by catalytically combining oxygen with hydrogen from the gas when the gas valve is opened. Later, also battery-operated remote igniters came into use.
Gas burners with a gas mantle have per mantle a lumen output of 200–600 lumen (comparable to that of a 25–60 W incandescent lamp) at 1–2 lm/W [5, 6, 7]. It is interesting to compare this luminous efficacy with that of Edison’s first incandescent bulb: 1.4 lm/W. The correlated color temperature is dependent on the composition of the mantle. Typical values are 2,700–2,900 K . The lifetime of a gas mantle was some 50–200 h. Modern gas mantles, as used today in professional street lighting lanterns, have a life of up to 4,000 h.
The effect of the mains pressure on the performance of gas lamps was much less than the effect of mains voltage on the performance of most electric lamps. From the last quarter of the nineteenth century, most gas lanterns are equipped with a small pressure governor that keeps the outlet pressure within acceptable limits.
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