I had a cloudy red/clear lamp from 1987. I thought I would try an experiment. I dumped the liquid and added distilled water, detergent for a surfactant and sugar instead of salt. After 4 tsp of sugar the lava still won't dome. Has anybody tried either sugar or salt with vintage lava? Either the vintage lava is denser than sugar water or I have yet to add enough. Seems like more than enough sugar water has been added already if it is ever going to dome. I was trying sugar since it made sense to me that salt would have a tendency to rust the coil over time. Would my problems go away if I dump the liquid and just use salt instead? One very cool effect of the sugar water is that it makes the globe look like a magnifying glass. I bet if I could get it to work with sugar the lava would move through the globe like it's in a funhouse mirror. Any ideas?
Thanks Jester. I wonder why my chemistry buddy didn't think about that? All I know is that I was adding table sugar like I owned stock in the company and it simply wouldn't dome. I looked at the MSDS sheet on perc (tetrachloroethylene 127-18-4) last night and it seems there could be problems with that in the long term as well. It says that it decomposes with moisture to yield trichloroacetic acid and hydrochloric acid. Very high amounts of heat can actually break it down to phosgene. Very nasty stuff. It also says to avoid moisture, light and heat as these things tend to break down the perc. Seems to me that if you don't have a totally airtight seal on the cap the lava would eventually start to float as if it had no perc in it. I wonder who here has the oldest working lamp made with salt and perc? Of course, hydrochloric acid is probably worse than any amount of salt you might would add when considering the life of the spring.
Thanks for the input. I was kind of worried about the salt rusting the coil. That's why I used sugar as a substitute. I've been looking over the original patents on the lava lamp. I don't think it would be impossible to create one using a lava similar to what was used in the original. That would probably do away with the clouding issue as well. I'll be back with a new lamp sometime in the near future and let everyone know how it goes. I'm trying to get a lamp that flows like the vintage models. Salt and sugar just don't yield the result I'm looking for. Besides, I want it to be a bit easier to tune the lamp. It's my desire to be able to combine ingredients by measuring with graduated cylinders and get a lamp that works without much tuning on the liquid side of the equation. It's just a matter of time before we can all enjoy a homemade lamp that actually works without having to buy a Mathmos. Don't get me wrong, I love watching those lamps in action. They are the best the world has to offer at the present time. I hope they follow through with US distribution as they said they were working on that angle for us. They have had a lot of requests from here in the states for a quality product that runs on the US power grid without a converter. Send me a friend request if you like and I'll keep you posted on my results as they become available.