Beautiful Acetone Lamp From Reused Materials.




Introduction: Beautiful Acetone Lamp From Reused Materials.

About: I'm an electronic engineering student. I don't usually have much spare time but I like to work on random projects to keep myself entertained. I hope you like them!

I must confess it, I have a weakness for lamps, basically I feel attracted to anything that emits light, I've made oil lamps, gas lamps, I've used LED's, neon bulbs,... I've tested many forms of creating light, but very few as beautiful as this one.

In this instructable I'll show you how to create an acetone lamp out of reused materials, in my case, I haven't spent a single penny, and didn't took me more than 10 minutes to finish it all.

Some friendly suggestions before we start: We will be working with glass, that means caution and common sense must be applied, if you're not used to work with glass or you're a minor, seek for supervision, protective gloves are highly recommended. As any other lamp that burns fuel, it can't be left unattended, specially if you're using it outdoors, near a forest, or other easily flammable materials.

Well, let's get to it:


  • A dead lightbulb (I used a 60W one)
  • Copper wire (thick, about 2mm)
  • Copper wire (thin, about 0,5mm)
  • Acetone

Try not to use enameled wire because the enamel will burn, you can find thin copper wire inside solid cables.

Step 1: Getting the Lightbulb Glass.

To get the glass you'll have to remove the shell, there are many ways to do this, using pliers and having a lot of patience is one, you can also dip the shell in hydrochloric acid and wait until the shell and the glue have dissolved completely to start working from there.

In my case I used a thin Dremel disk to cut through the shell, then I used the disk to make a slight mark around the neck of the glass and with some taps here and there and some patience I ended with a bit rough cut, but it's fine enough.

With wet 240 grit sandpaper placed over a flat surface I sand the edges until they're flat and don't represent a threat anymore.

Step 2: Making the Body.

The round shape of the lightbulb isn't stable at all, so we need a way to make a convenient holder that can hold it safely.

To do this I opted for a spiral design, it's quite easy to do, grab a thick copper wire about 30 centimeters (12 inches) long, then you just have to do the basic shape and then mold the shape to the lightbulb, be careful not to crush it while doing so, use protective gloves to avoid any danger. A pair of pliers can be very useful to bend the wire delicately.

Leave a piece of wire a bit longer than the diameter of the aperture, then bend it to form a bump and bend it again to place it over the hole like shown at the picture.

Once it's done grab a piece of wire about 7 centimeters (about 3 inches) long, bend it like shown at the second picture, if you make opposite facing hooks it's more difficult the hanger can get out. The important thing is to make it just wide enough to be located at the sides of the bump, which will keep the hooks from moving.

Step 3: Making the Burner.

The most characteristic property of this lamp it's there is no flame, the copper acts a catalyst allowing the acetone to react giving off water and other molecules derivatives of the acetone. This process makes the copper to shine orange to yellow-hot, giving a gentle light.

I've noticed, that in order to get the maximum brightness, the piece of copper that will be exposed has to have an helix shape, to do so I made around 7 loops around a 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) metal rod (look at the first picture to get an idea), with the remaining wire I made a hook to hang it from the bump as shown in the second picture.

The most amazing thing about this lamp is you can do whatever shape you like, from a heart shape to your name, the possibilities are immense.

Important: You have to calculate the length of the hook so the helix is at lest 1.5 cm (0.6 in) above the acetone, a helix too low will cause the acetone to evaporate at a very high rate loosing efficiency, and maybe even to burn.

The more loops you add to the helix the more brightness you'll get from it but the faster the acetone will evaporate due the temperature, in this case I wouldn't wind more than 10 loops.

Step 4: First Test.

When all the pieces are assembled tightly, it's time to test it out, I made a small hook to hang the lamp conveniently.

The process to light it is the following:

  1. Make sure the lamp is stable and hanged in a safe place.
  2. Pour some acetone inside the bulb (~1 cm is enough)
  3. Take the copper piece out of the bulb.
  4. With a lighter heat it until it's red hot (use pliers).
  5. Once it's glowing red, insert it inside the bulb, once it's halfway in the reaction will start, you don't need to hurry up.
  6. Calmly, hang the spiral from the bump.
  7. Make sure it doesn't touches the acetone and that it's at least 1.5 cm (0.6 in) above it.

After doing some tests, I confirm this lamp can stay lit for about an hour or two with a small amount of acetone.

Important: Copper is a very good heat transmitter, the hanger and other parts might get quite hot, so don't use your bare hands to grab the lamp when it's been running for a long time. A good solution to this is to use a longer hook. Due the vast amount of mobile parts, this lamp isn't intended to be carried with you, but to stay in a stationary position.

Thanks for watching!

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78 Discussions

Had it running in my room for 30 mins , can't smell now :/ hmm defs an outdoor project , think some nasty gasses are coming from reaction

1 reply

Very cool, it creates relaxing atmosphere at night...


my teenage boys and I made this but we could not get the reaction to occur. any suggestions?

1 reply

The opening seems to be very small, try making it bigger so the combustion gases can be exchanged for fresh air to keep the reaction going.

Just as a warning, this lamp *can* make ethanone and methane under certain circumstances. Ethanone is very toxic, about as bad as hydrogen cyanide, and even a small amount will make breathing temporarily hard. Do not get close to the top of the lightbulb and inhale the exhaust.

very cool indeed!


Can you use nail polish remover or where do you get acetone, does ammonia work?

4 replies

Victor8o5 is right about the ammonia/platinum reaction, it is used commercially to produce nitric acid, but in this mostly enclosed light arrangement the acid is neutralized by the ammonia solution so it is not a problem.

For the platinum/ammonia oxidation you need concentrated ammonia so
wear eye protection and gloves when dealing with the ammonia solution.

for the hazards handling the ammonia itself the oxidation of ammonia
with platinum presents surprisingly few dangers by comparison to the acetone.
At least the aqueous ammonia solution is not flammable like acetone is.
The by-products are nitric oxide which is further oxidized to nitrogen
dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is toxic but under these conditions should fairly quickly react with water and oxygen to form the nitrate ion and some nitrogen. Nevertheless be careful
with ventilation.

I haven't tried the platinum/ammonia reaction because I don't have platinum wire, and I don't think I'm going to buy it in the near future. I guess it will be brighter if the wire is thinner as it happens with copper.

As you said, with this kind of reactions it's very important to have a good ventilation, but with ammonia, since it's quite a simple compound it's expected to give off less dangerous products than the acetone.

Nail polish remover can work, but I think the concentration will be lower so you won't get as much efficiency as you would with industrial acetone. Ammonia works with platinum.

I got my acetone bottle at a brico depot, at the paint section, along with the other solvents.

Victor8o5 have you ever done the ammonia/platinum with thin platinum wire? I have done it with thick platinum wire and it is not very bright, only about red hot. If it glows brighter with thin platinum wire it would be a good to know.

You're right, a spiral occupies only a two dimensional plane, while the helix revolves
around a central axis through three dimensions. I'm editing it now.

Please note Victor8o5 that I was not criticising you - the comment was aimed at everyone in general, as most make that mistake.

I love getting people with that one too; when people say their house has a spiral staircase, I say, "Wouldn't it be more useful to have a staircase that took people up to the next floor." LOL

BTW Victor8o5 your English is better than you give yourself credit for.

I didn't have that impression, if someone
makes a mistake, the best thing someone could do is to correct him.
That's the way we learn.

Thank you for correcting me. Also
English isn't my first language, so this is the best way I can learn how
to speak and write it properly.

Really cool lamp and idea! I may have to give this a try.