- Gas mantle
:"For other uses of mantle see:"
An incandescent gas mantle, gas mantle, or Welsbach mantle is a device for generating bright white light when heated by a flame. The name refers to its original heat source, existing
gas lights which filled the streets of Europeand North Americain the late 19th century, mantle referring to the way it was hung above the flame. Today they are still used for portable camping lanterns and pressure lamps.
The mantle is made from oxides that, when heated, glow brightly in the
visiblespectrum while emitting little infraredradiation. The rare earth oxides ( ceriumand thorium) in the mantle have a low emissivityin the infrared (in comparison with an ideal black body), but have high emissivity in the visible spectrum. Hence, when heated by a keroseneor liquified petroleum gasflame, the mantle emits radiation that is weighted less heavily in the infraredand more heavily in the visible spectrum, leading to an enhanced output of useful light.
Modern mantles are made by saturating a
ramie-based artificial silk or rayonfabric with rare earths. When the mantle, which resembles a small net bag, is placed in the flame for the first time, the fabric burns away, leaving a residue of metal oxide, which glows brightly.
The mantle shrinks and becomes very fragile after this first use.
For centuries, artificial light had been generated using open
flames. Limelighthad been invented in the 1820s but the temperature required was too high to be practical for small lights. In the late 19th century several inventors tried to develop an effective alternative based on heating a material to a lower temperature but using spectral lines to simulate white light.
Many early attempts used
platinum- iridiumgauze soaked in metal nitrates, but were not successful because of high cost materials and poor reliability.
The first effective mantle was the "Clamond basket" in 1881, named after its inventor. It was exhibited in
the Crystal Palaceexhibition of 1883. This device was made from a mixture of magnesiumhydrate, magnesium acetate and waterwhich was squeezed through holes in a plate to form threads, which were then moulded into a basket shape and ignited. The acetate burnt, the combustion products forming a matrix to support the magnesium oxideformed as the hydrate decomposed. The fragile structure was supported by a platinum wire cage and heated by a coal gasflame.
The modern gas mantle was one of the many inventions of
Carl Auer von Welsbach, a chemistwho studied rare earth elements in the 1880s and who had been Robert Bunsen's student. His first process used a mixture of 60% magnesium oxide, 20% lanthanum oxideand 20% yttrium oxidewhich he called "Actinophor", and patented in 1885.
The original mantles gave off a green-tinted light and were not very successful, and his first company, which established a factory in
Atzgersdorfin 1887, failed in 1889. In 1890 he discovered that thorium was superior to magnesium, and in 1891 perfected a new mixture of 99% thorium dioxideand 1% cerium dioxidethat gave off a much whiter light and produced a stronger mantle. After introducing it commercially in 1892 it quickly spread throughout Europe. The gas mantle remained an important part of street lighting until the widespread introduction of electric lighting in the early 1900s.
To produce a mantle,
cottonis woven into a net bag and impregnated with the soluble nitrates of these metals and then heated; the cotton burns away and the nitrates are converted to nitrites which fuse together to form the solid mesh. As the heating continues, the nitrites decompose into the final solid, (but fragile) very high melting point oxides.
Early mantles were sold in the unheated cotton mesh condition, since the oxide structure was too fragile to transport easily and the purchaser carried out the conversion when it was first used. The cotton quickly rotted because of the corrosive nature of the acidic metal nitrates (although was later reduced by soaking the mantle in
ammoniasolution to neutralise the excess acid).
Later mantles were made from guncotton (
nitrocellulose) or collodionrather than ordinary cotton, since extremely fine threads of it could be produced; it was converted back to cellulosebefore heating (since these materials are highly flammable or explosive) by dipping in ammonium sulfide.
It was discovered that the finished mantle could be strengthened sufficiently by dipping in a solution of collodion which would coat it with a thin layer of the material to be burnt off when the mantle was first used, although modern mantles are now usually sold in their original fabric condition.
Early mantles often had a binding thread of
asbestosfor tying onto the lamp fitting, but because of its carcinogenic properties it has been replaced with wire or ceramic fiber thread in modern mantles.
afety of thorium
thoriumis radioactive and produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products, there are concerns about the safety of thorium mantles. Some nuclear safetyagencies make recommendations about their use [http://www.arpansa.gov.au/is_lantern.htm] . A study in 1981 estimated that the dose from using a thorium mantle every weekend for a year would be 0.3-0.6 millirems, tiny in comparison to the normal annual dose of a few hundred millirems, although a person ingesting an entire mantle would receive a comparable dose of 200 mrem (2 mSv; [http://www.survivalunlimited.com/lanternsstoves/aladdinmantleinfo.htm] , [http://www.straightdope.com/columns/031205.html] ). However the radioactivity is a major concern for those people involved with the manufacture of mantles and with contamination of soil around some former factory sites [http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/hhazweb/hhw_no_3.pdf] . All of these issues have meant that alternatives, usually yttriumor sometimes zirconium, are used in some countries although they are either more expensive or less efficient.
One potential cause for concern is that particles from thorium gas mantles "fall out" over time and get into the air where they may be ingested in food or drink. These particles can also be inhaled and remain in the lungs or liver.
Secondary decay products of
thoriuminclude radium, actinium, and radongas.
* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/munwai/history.htm A Brief History of the Incandescent Mantle Pressure Lamp]
* [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Lighting 1911 Encyclopedia article on lighting]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/6/3/6/16360/16360-8.txt Gutenberg project – Scientific American October 2, 1886, article on the Clamond Gas Burner]
* [http://www.du.edu/~jcalvert/phys/rare.htm#Auer Auer von Welsbach]
* [http://www.arpansa.gov.au/is_lantern.htm Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency article "Radioactivity in Lantern Mantles"]
* [http://www.straightdope.com/columns/031205.html The Straight Dope - Are camp lanterns radioactive?]
* [http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/hhazweb/hhw_no_3.pdf Document at New Jersey Consumer and Environmental Health Services containing a description of contamination at former factory site at Camden, New Jersey]
* [http://www.be-back-later.com/forums Historic Lamp forum]
* [http://www.lampguild.org/ The International Guild of Lamp Researchers]
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Look at other dictionaries:
gas mantle — mantle (def. 5). [1895 1900] * * * ˈgas mantle [gas mantle] noun = ↑mantle … Useful english dictionary
gas mantle — n. a MANTLE (n. 3) to be used over a gas burner … English World dictionary
gas mantle — mantle (def. 5). [1895 1900] * * * … Universalium
gas mantle — /ˈgæs mæntl/ (say gas mantl) noun a chemically prepared, incombustible network hood for a gas jet which, when the jet is lit, becomes incandescent and gives a brilliant light … Australian English dictionary
gas mantle — noun The incandescent gauze surrounding the flame in a gas lamp. It contains rare earths to enhance the light output … Wiktionary
Mantle — may refer to: Mantle (clothing), a cloak like garment worn mainly by women as fashionable outerwear Mantle, part of the bird anatomy Mantle (climbing), a rock climbing move used to surmount a ledge Mantle, a black and white dog coat colour,… … Wikipedia
mantle — ► NOUN 1) a woman s loose sleeveless cloak or shawl. 2) a close covering, such as that of snow. 3) (also gas mantle) a mesh cover fixed round a gas jet to give an incandescent light when heated. 4) an important role or responsibility that passes… … English terms dictionary
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Gas lamps — Lighting with gas (methane) with illuminating gas products added for a brighter light, was begun in England in the early 1800s for lighting the streets of cities using coal gas, but its value was soon recognized and use spread to industrial,… … Wikipedia
mantle — mantle1 noun 1》 a woman s loose sleeveless cloak or shawl. 2》 a covering: a mantle of snow. 3》 an important role or responsibility that passes from one person to another. [with allusion to the passing of Elijah s cloak (mantle) to Elisha (2 Kings … English new terms dictionary