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How Liquid Motion Lamps Work


Make Your Own Motion Lamp

There are a number of Web sites that offer instructions on how to create your own liquid motion lamp.

You won't find any plans with the exact same material found in a commercial lamp, because this information is still top secret. Motion lamp recipes are so popular because coming up with exactly the right compound combination is an exciting chemistry puzzle. It's a real trick finding two compounds that will form the free-floating blobs you see in commercial lamps.

One of the simpler plans out there uses mineral oil as the blobs and a combination of 70-percent and 90-percent rubbing alcohol as the surrounding liquid. The trick with these ingredients is to balance the two different grades of rubbing alcohol until you get a good balance between the alcohol's density and the density of the oil.

You can color the blobs by adding insoluble dye, such as the sort used in permanent markers. For best results, you should find a fairly tall glass container for the globe. For a safe and effective lamp, don't use anything hotter than a 40-watt bulb to heat the globe. To learn how to make this basic motion lamp, check out this page.

Other homemade motion lamp designs use more complicated combinations of materials to create better displays. In most cases, acquiring all the necessary ingredients for building a lamp yourself is actually more expensive than simply buying a commercial model. It is an interesting project, however, and it's an excellent way to fully explore how liquid motion lamps work.

If you are interested in making your own lamp, keep in mind that dealing with these sorts of materials and constructing any device with a heating unit is potentially hazardous. Don't undertake such a project unless you have a good knowledge of the materials involved or you are assisted by someone who does. Make sure you aren't handling any dangerous chemicals and, as with any chemistry experiment, wear eye protection and an apron. Most of the sites that feature motion lamp plans also include disclaimers disavowing any responsibility because they are fully aware of the potential dangers involved.

To learn more about the history and construction of motion lamps, check out the links on the next page. You'll also find plenty of pictures of the many commercial motion lamp designs released through the years.


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