Safety Lamps and Explosions


Today, Simon Woolley from Beamish museum came to the Enter Centre and taught us all about explosions in coal mines. He also demonstrated some explosions using some science equipment. Here are the things that I have learnt:

·        Explosions were caused by methane coming into contact with a naked flame.

·        Everybody ignored the problem until 92 miners died in 1812.

·        After this, reverend John Hodgson set up an organisation (The Society for Preventing Accidents in Coal Mines) to prevent further accidents.

·        To make a flame you need oxygen, heat and fuel.

·        Methane and oxygen can’t be separated.

·        A competition was started to create a safe source of light for use down the mine.

·        The first attempt was a candle in a container that was connected to bellows by a tube. It required 2 men to carry it into the pit and a small miner to pump the bellows. The problem with it was that it stopped work being completed because they were busy working the lamp.

·        The second attempt was by George Stephenson which was a thin sheet of metal in the form of a lamp with lots of holes in it and what happened is if the flame came into contact with methane and it exploded, the explosion would be confined in the lamp and the heat would conduct through the metal, making it less dangerous.

·        The third attempt was by Sir Humphrey Davy and he invented what is now known as the miner’s safety lamp. He used gauze made of metal inside the lamp which is see through. The gauze worked similarly to Stephenson’s metal sheet design as it had tiny holes in the metal which conceals the heat. This became the lamp that was used in mine work.

Overall I thought this workshop was engaging because of the explosions. I would recommend this workshop as the explosions were fascinating and I learnt a lot.

Hannah, Youth Committee