Oozing Goo - The Lava Lamp Syndicate

He Folks,

I got myself a project here. Built this 1 meter high lava lamp (see picture). The basics include benzyl alcohol, water and salt. Got a bit of surfactant in there (SLS).

The problem I have is that the water turns cloudy because of the salt (creating an emulsion). As soon as I start to reach the point where I added enough salt the water turns milky. If I add fresh water the problem goes away but the benzyl alcohol is too heavy.

I experimented with different ways to increase the density of the water (sugar - creates a mess, other salts - more mess, turpentine (to reduce the BA density - got 3 phases (funny), glycerine - everything dissolved in each other). So I am a but stuck.

I am a chemical engineer so am thinking about adding a demulsifier but I am afraid this might counter the effect of the surfactant making me end in one blob of BA bouncing up and down.

Any tips ? Thanks in advance.


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Salt can turn the water cloudy but it depends on what salt you are using - pure salt such as picking / canning salt or epson salts can work ok. I have redone and aggusted lamps with salt and it does cloud the lamp while cool but i have found that it goes when the lamp heats up as the salts desolve. 

People on hear have had better luck though with salts by creating a max saturation brine and then adding a bit of this at a time to the lamp instead of using a lower saturation and using a lot of it

Personally with my lamps I am going with glycol as this is easier to work with and wont cloud the water - this is something to try instead of salt or other things etc.

Also how did you make the lamp and get the globe - was the globe custom made or was a bottle of something.

He Tim,

Thanks very much for the reply. Good suggestions. I do now indeed use the brine solution instead of the lower solution. Works slightly better but I have not been able to get it fully clear. But indeed it does getting better when warmed up. But I want to add more salt to get the densities closer but know this will cause the fluids to become permanently milky.

I like the glycol solution but have used glycerine before which cause the benzylalcohol and water to dissolve in each other.

What lave do you use ? Also benzylalcohol ?

I have bought the glass as vase from Amazon. The top and bottom I made of ducting fittings which I sprayed black. I just added a lamp with dimmer. The vase was 20cm and if you then buy female ducting fittings it fits perfectly.

Curious on your lava.

Cheers, Dimitri.

Just checked but glycol completely dissolves in benzylalcohol.

I haven't made a lamp from scratch before but i have redone lamps usually china lamps and Mathmos lamps that have not flowed or to improve the flow.

I have made a fue gookit lamps and that's the furthest i have gone to make my own lamp from scratch.

Wax wize generaly the wax used is usually artificial made and oil (i.e. hydrocarbon based) based.

Also as I understand it your using the benzealchol as a substitute for Perc (to brake down the wax), I think perc would be better to use as this has been used before and i think it doesn't dissolve glycol.

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