• FA-123738_Davy'sche Sicherheitslampe © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Energy & Mining
1850 - 1899
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

The Davy safety lamp

Just a single spark underground could be life threatening until Humphrey Davy secured the miner's lamp against firedamp explosions through the use of a close-meshed metal net.

Firedamp explosion is one of the most menacing hazards awaiting miners. When the methane content of the air in coal mines reaches 5 - 14 %, just one spark can trigger a lethal explosion. But how could a mine be lit when any naked flame represented a huge safety risk?

Fortunately, at the start of the 19th century the English chemist Humphrey Davy discovered that highly-explosive methane-air mixtures did not ignite in metal tubes with a diameter of less than 3.5 millimetres. This gave him the idea of surrounding miner's lamps with a close-meshed wire. Thereby the wire mesh did actually prevent firedamp explosions caused by flames. It was even possible to estimate the methane content of the air because the methane that penetrated the wire mesh burned as a bluish aureole above the flame.

A significant disadvantage of the Davy lamp was reduced illumination through the mesh, particularly when soot formed. A few years later, this problem was solved by the use of a glass cylinder made from fire-resistant Jena glass.

Carl Wolf from Zwickau patented a lamp in 1884 that was fuelled by petrol, which burned more brightly and did not form soot. In addition, he invented an internal ignition device that the miner could use to relight his lamp if it went out, without endangering himself or his mates. Together with the magnetic closure that prevented manipulation by the miner himself in hazardous areas, the new lamp was much in demand and soon made the company
‘Friemann & Wolf, Zwickau in Sachsen’ one of the largest manufacturers of miner's lamps in the world.

Manufacturer: Wolf
Place of manufacture: Zwickau (Germany)
Date of production: after 1883

Inv.Nr. 25152
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