MESSRS EDITORS—My attention was drawn to an article in the Scientific American of the 21st ult., in regard to the probable cause ol fire damp explosions, as established by the investigations which have been made in England of late, in which investigations it was stated to originate oftentimes through the carelessness of the miners, in lighting their pipes, by sucking the flame through the wire gauze which surrounds the lamp now used by them. The statement thus set forth is a scientific oversight, I am quite confident, not only from the knowledge with which my own chemical and philosophical attainments have made me acquainted, but also the experiments which I have had occasion to make whilst investigating the properties of the so-called fire-damp, or more properly carburet-ted hydrogen. Some time since, while experimenting with this compound gas, I was led to inquire, amongst other things, to what extent an inflamed current of this gas could be made to traverse a piece of gauze without re-igniting upon the opposite side of the same. The experiments to the attainment of the desired end were numerous, and some were quite complicated, but the most simple was to me the most conclusive of them all, and that was merely this :—A jet proceeding from a reservoir containing the gaseous compound under examination, was inflamed ; upon this burning jet I depressed a tube of some 2i inches in diameter, the lower end of which was covered with fine fire gauze (the same kind of that employed by Davy in the construction of his safety-lamp), and of some considerable length ; the tube acting as a chimney to a fur- I nace, created a great draft of the burning gas through the gauze, but for all this dralt there was no ignition within the tube. Do you say that there was no supporter of combustion within ; I answer, that the atmospheric air accompanied the gas in its entrance into the tube, as if that was all it required it was I there ; but no, the settled fact, since the immortal discoverer, that it was the conductabi-lity of the wire gauze that relieved the flame I of its incandescence notwithstanding the great . impetus given by the draft created. Now let us substitute for the reservoir the lamp and the gauze of the tube—the gauze which surrounds the lamp of the miner—his pipe answers admirably for our tube in creating an artificial draft, according to the specifications of the proposition,—and here we have the whole matter lust as it is, right at our finger's end, I think, were the knowing ones across the big waters, who perpetrated this scientific wonder, to make this simple experiment, they would not hesitate for a moment to acknowledge it as such J. C. HOUSE. Lowville, ?. Y., May 23, 1853. [The article to which our correspondent refers, was, as stated, an extract from the opinion expressed by a Commission ot Mine Inspectors. The cause of explosions in mines where the wire gauze lamp is used, is owing more, we believe, to miners taking off their covers to light their pipes, than to sucking the flame through the gauze. But at the same time, we believe that danger is to be apprehended from a flame drawn in ,the form of a cone, through a sheet of wire gauze into an atmosphere of carburetted hydrogen saturated with air.
This article was originally published with the title "Wire Gauze and Fire Damp Explosion" in Scientific American 8, 39, 307 (June 1853)