Humphry Davy

po_Davy-LampThe Davy lamp is a safety lamp for use in flammable atmospheres, consisting of a wick lamp with the flame enclosed inside a mesh screen. It was invented in 1815 by Sir Humphry Davy. It originally burned a heavy vegetable oil. It was created for use in coal mines, to reduce the danger of explosions due to the presence of methane and other flammable gases, called firedamp or minedamp.

Sir Humphry Davy had discovered that a flame enclosed inside a mesh of a certain fineness cannot ignite firedamp. The screen acts as a flame arrestor; air (and any firedamp present) can pass through the mesh freely enough to support combustion, but the holes are too fine to allow a flame to propagate through them and ignite any firedamp outside the mesh.

The news about Davy’s lamp was made public at a Royal Society meeting in Newcastle on November 3, 1815, and the paper describing the lamp was formally presented on November 9. For it, Davy was awarded the Society’s Rumford Medal. The first trial of a Davy lamp with a wire sieve was at Hebburn Colliery on January 9, 1816.