Snapple, Steel and Green Fire: Bride of Spirit Lantern

Picture of Snapple, Steel and Green Fire: Bride of Spirit Lantern
I'm entering this in the Green Challenge and the Epilog Challenge.  If you like what you see, please vote for me!

My previous green fire instructable, The Spirit Lantern (Green Fire 2.0), was entertaining and educational to make, but it raised a couple of concerns:

1) A methanol flame is hot (from 500˚ C up to ~1900˚ C under some conditions according to online sources - I've been able to bend borosilicate tubing over a methanol flame, so think 820˚ C/1500˚ F), and an open flame is a fire hazard

2) One of the combustion products, diboron trioxide, is a white powder that settles all over everything, and makes a mess

Although this instructable doesn't entirely solve these problems, it mitigates them somewhat, and (in my opinion) results in an end product that's both more versatile and more aesthetically pleasing.  That said, this is not something you want to leave unattended (in most of it's incarnations - caveat: see "safe mode" below), and there is still some diboro trioxide that escapes the lamp, so it still might be best described as "outdoors fun."  I present it to the discerning ladies and gentlemen of the Instructables community however, as an entertaining part of any soiree where children are well-behaved and supervised, or (better still) in bed, and the only thing imbibing alcohol is the lamp itself.  In other words, use discretion.

A note on the photography: photographing the various flames/light sources while keeping the lamp details visible is seriously hard.  If you'd like to see what the green fire looks like in it's natural state, without other incandescent light throwing off the color balance (and vice versa), check out my previous green fire instructable, referenced above.


Hey! I got written up in Hack a Day!  They're a little less sanguine about the methanol version due to the temperature of the flame and the fact that the glass is not borosilicate.  So let me address that concern, at least a little: with a thicker wick (like 1/2"), the flame temperature of ~820˚ C I achieved was at the tip of the inner cone of the flame, the hottest part.  This allowed me to bend a very thin borosilicate pipette.  To get a higher temperature than this, you would need to have a much more sophisticated set-up, including a much better means of controlling combustion.  The glass of this lantern doesn't get anywhere near that hot - most of the heat is dissipated by the time it reaches the glass.  However, I do get the concern, and so I'd like to emphasize that those who feel freaked out about a methanol lamp can make a cooler burning (albeit less purty) lamp using isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), and please do not leave this unattended.  For those looking for flame temperatures of various fuels, check out the Wikipedia article on the subject.  Not to harp on the subject, but the temperature of a candle flame can be over 1400˚ C.  Okay, now I'll shut up.

Still later:

I've written a mod/add-on for this that allows you to heat water (or food).  It's called the Spirit Samovar!  Check it out!
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nidhic1 month ago

nice attempt!

nidhic1 month ago

nice attempt!

have u thought of adding a thermal generator to yr set up? such as that would add some usefulness to yr device
sconner11 year ago
Correct, the evaporative cooling is a factor keeping the paper seals from burning. But more importantly, the paper can't burn without a continuous source of oxygen, the same reason the flame doesn't follow the wick down into the jar. It can only burn where it is exposed to the air. This is how every wick burning lamp works. A candle doesn't need the container because the wax needs the heat of the flame to melt and then vaporize, whereas the alcohol will vaporize on it's own without the added heat.
The Green Gentleman (author)  sconner11 year ago
That wouldn't prevent destructive distillation of the paper, though. If the inside surface of the jar lid reached a temperature at which paper chars, the paper would undergo pyrolysis. I don't think that lack of oxygen explains this.
You can boil water in a paper cup over an open flame.
Try it. The cup only burns to the waterline.
I think you're on the right track with the evaporative cooling theory.
Also most of the heat of the flame will move upward away from the jar and the draft will bring in cooler air around the jar.
just the cap will be heated by it's proximity.
And most importantly the flame probably isn't as hot as alcohol's max temperature. This is an unaided flame, not an alcohol blowtorch.
The Green Gentleman (author)  sconner11 year ago
That was definitely my thinking. That said, I no physicist. I think that the boiling water in a paper cup is an interesting analogy. I'll have to think about that ...

On a side note, I would really like an alcohol blowtorch. Hmm...
I know. That's an antique shop item now.
person%1 year ago
that is awesome :)
The Green Gentleman (author)  person%1 year ago
Thank you!
fixerman421 year ago
Very cool. I'm definitely going to try building a version of my own. So, the lantern appears to just sort of sit together. Do you have any suggestions for securing it together so one could pick it up and move it around without the bottom falling off? While it's cool, of course.
And I would love to see what you build! Post pictures, aiight?
Workin' on it!
I'd assume don't cook over either.

It is a really nice ghostly green flame. nice work.
I think cooking over it would be fine, but probably not with the green fire. From my reading, the boric acid/methanol would be what metal workers call a "Barrier Flux" that would help prevent firescale/oxidation of the metal container you were cooking with - however - you would probably end up with some diboron trioxide in your food. Thank you for reading! I'm glad it was appreciated!
Yeah I mean the green flame. There are some really stupid people out there (i'd hope none of the instructable folks are).
dunnos1 year ago
Very pretty.
I remember some guy referring to LED candles as an 'LED-like candle solution'. Safe mode reminded me of that =)
The Green Gentleman (author)  dunnos1 year ago
Don't get me wrong - I love LEDs! Still, the LED version is fairly underwhelming. In all fairness, I did use a dollar store LED, and you get 3 for a dollar, so it's a $.33 electro-votive. Not exactly high-end.
agis681 year ago
excellent job done here!!! Very nice described
The Green Gentleman (author)  agis681 year ago
Thank you!
tacamaral1 year ago
Wow, end results are beautiful! I'll definitely make some of these.
The Green Gentleman (author)  tacamaral1 year ago
Thank you! Post pictures of what you make - I'd love to see it!
Great instructable and very well done. I appreciated the off beat humor especially!
Thank you! I hoped it would be entertaining and useful.
Great instructable !

So well done on both levels : the lantern itself and the instructable too !

thanks for posting !
Thank you very much! It's not a steep learning curve kind of process, but there are a lot of steps, and I really wanted it to be intelligible.
Very informative, especially when breaking down the chemistry. If only high school chemistry was this fun!
Sparticles1 year ago
This is great.
I like these brilliant projects being made with simple materials.
Hey, I just checked out your instructables: I love anomalocaris! I've been a big fan ever since Walking with Monsters! I'm kind of sad that they died out. That's a hella cool little machine you made!
But we have squids nowdays, they make up a lot.
Thank you! Cool projects with easy to obtain stuff was what first drew me to this site too!
apostropho1 year ago
Thank you soooooooo much for that brilliant instructable.