After dampafter-dampinhaling poisonous gases
Canaries were introduced into British collieries in the 1890s by John Scott Haldane, the noted physiologist. Gas detectors are available now which detect toxic gases such as carbon monoxide at very low levels. They are widely available to protect domestic premises. The levels of gas detection depend on the methods used. *Glossary of coal mining terminology *J S Haldane and J G Priestley, Respiration, Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. (1935)

Coal mining

coal minecollierycoal miner
Black damp: a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in a mine can cause suffocation, and is formed as a result of corrosion in enclosed spaces so removing oxygen from the atmosphere. After damp: similar to black damp, after damp consists of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen and forms after a mine explosion. Fire damp: consists of mostly methane, a highly flammable gas that explodes between 5% and 15% - at 25% it causes asphyxiation. Stink damp: so named for the rotten egg smell of the hydrogen sulfide gas, stink damp can explode and is also very toxic. White damp: air containing carbon monoxide which is toxic, even at low concentrations''. Daniel Burns.

Davy lamp

miner's lampminer's safety lampDavy
Miners could place the safety lamp close to the ground to detect gases, such as carbon dioxide, that are denser than air and so could collect in depressions in the mine; if the mine air was oxygen-poor (asphyxiant gas), the lamp flame would be extinguished (black damp or chokedamp). A methane-air flame is extinguished at about 17% oxygen content (which will still support life), so the lamp gave an early indication of an unhealthy atmosphere, allowing the miners to get out before they died of asphyxiation. In 1816, the Cumberland Pacquet reported a demonstration of the Davy lamp at William Pit, Whitehaven. Placed in a blower "... the effect was grand beyond description.


methane gasCH 4 liquid methane
An adaptation of the Sabatier methanation reaction may be used with a mixed catalyst bed and a reverse water-gas shift in a single reactor to produce methane from the raw materials available on Mars, utilizing water from the Martian subsoil and carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Methane could be produced by a non-biological process called ’'serpentinization'' involving water, carbon dioxide, and the mineral olivine, which is known to be common on Mars. X• + CH 4 → HX + CH 3 •. CH 3 • + X 2 → CH 3 X + X•. 2007 Zasyadko mine disaster. Abiogenic petroleum origin. Aerobic methane production. Anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic respiration. Arctic methane emissions. Biogas.

Gas detector

gas sensorgas detectiongas detectors
Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, coal miners would bring canaries down to the tunnels with them as an early detection system against life-threatening gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane. The canary, normally a very songful bird, would stop singing and eventually die if not removed from these gases, signaling the miners to exit the mine quickly. The first gas detector in the industrial age was the flame safety lamp (or Davy lamp) was invented by Sir Humphry Davy (of England) in 1815 to detect the presence of methane (firedamp) in underground coal mines. The flame safety lamp consisted of an oil flame adjusted to specific height in fresh air.

Mine rescue

mines rescueMines Rescue StationRescuers
Apart from safety lamps to detect gases, they had no special equipment. Most deaths in coal mines were caused by the poisonous gases caused by explosions, particularly afterdamp or carbon monoxide. Survivors of explosions were rare and most apparatus taken underground was used to fight fires or recover bodies. Early breathing apparatus derived from under-sea diving was developed and a crude nose and mouthpiece and breathing tubes was tried in France before 1800. Gas masks of various types were tried in the early-19th century: some had chemical filters, others goat skin reservoirs or metal canisters, but none eliminated carbon dioxide rendering them of limited use.

Coal dust

pulverized coalcoalcoal dust explosion
The main attempts at prevention include using safety lamps, adding stone dust coffers to mine galleries to dilute the coal dust, watering workings and ensuring efficient ventilation of all the workings. The worst mining accidents in history have been caused by coal dust explosions, such as the disaster at Senghenydd in South Wales in 1913 in which 439 miners died, the Courrières mine disaster in Northern France which killed 1,099 miners in 1906, the Luisenthal Mine disaster in Germany, which claimed 299 lives in 1962, and the worst: the explosion at Benxihu Colliery, China, which killed 1,549 in 1942.

Humphry Davy

Sir Humphry DavyDavySir Humphry Davy, Bt
Although the idea of the safety lamp had already been demonstrated by William Reid Clanny and by the then unknown (but later very famous) engineer George Stephenson, Davy's use of wire gauze to prevent the spread of flame was used by many other inventors in their later designs. George Stephenson's lamp was very popular in the north-east coalfields, and used the same principle of preventing the flame reaching the general atmosphere, but by different means. Unfortunately, although the new design of gauze lamp initially did seem to offer protection, it gave much less light, and quickly deteriorated in the wet conditions of most pits.

Asphyxiant gas

asphyxiantasphyxiantsasphyxiant gases
The concept of black damp (or "stythe") reflects an understanding that certain gaseous mixtures could lead to death with prolonged exposure. Early mining deaths due to mining fires and explosions were often a result of encroaching asphyxiant gases as the fires consumed available oxygen. Early self-contained respirators were designed by mining engineers such as Henry Fleuss to help in rescue efforts after fires and floods. While canaries were typically used to detect carbon monoxide, tools such as the Davy lamp and the Geordie lamp were useful for detecting methane and carbon dioxide, two asphyxiant gases.


burningignitionincomplete combustion
Incomplete combustion will occur when there is not enough oxygen to allow the fuel to react completely to produce carbon dioxide and water. It also happens when the combustion is quenched by a heat sink, such as a solid surface or flame trap. Same as complete combustion, water is produced by incomplete combustion. However, carbon, carbon monoxide, and/or hydroxide are the products instead of carbon dioxide. For most fuels, such as diesel oil, coal or wood, pyrolysis occurs before combustion. In incomplete combustion, products of pyrolysis remain unburnt and contaminate the smoke with noxious particulate matter and gases.

Domestic canary

canarycanariesminer's canary
John Scott Haldane. Warrant canary. Sentinel species. McDonald, Robirda, Brats in Feathers, Keeping Canaries ISBN: 0-9730434-4-X. Miley-Russell, Marie, The Practical Canary Handbook, A Guide to Breeding and Keeping Canaries. ISBN: 1-59113-851-5. Especially useful to American Singer canary owners. Linda Hogan, Canary Tales. GB Walker, Colour, Type, and Song Canaries. David Alderton, Birds Care, You and your pet bird. Author unknown, The Canary Handbook, Canaries, Barrons. Tim Hawcroft, Health Care for Birds. James Blake, Fife Canaries. The Canary FAQ. The Rockefeller University. Canary Sound.

Felling mine disasters

disasterFellingFelling mining disasters
One of the doctors was William Reid Clanny (1776-1850) who had already produced a first, impractical, safety lamp. Also present was George Stephenson who at that time was enginewright for the collieries at Killingworth. The society aimed for: Stephenson designed a safety lamp, known as the Geordie lamp, with air fed through narrow tubes, down which a flame could not move. It also led Sir Humphry Davy to devise another safety lamp, the Davy lamp, in which the flame was surrounded by iron gauze. The gauze had to have small spaces so that a flame could not pass through, but could admit methane, which then burned harmlessly inside the lamp.


From currently studied systems, the only unifying mechanism is the role of molecular oxygen, though many examples have a concurrent release of carbon dioxide. For example, the firefly luciferin/luciferase reaction requires magnesium and ATP and produces carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), adenosine monophosphate (AMP) and pyrophosphate (PP) as waste products. Other cofactors may be required for the reaction, such as calcium (Ca 2+ ) for the photoprotein aequorin, or magnesium (Mg 2+ ) ions and ATP for the firefly luciferase.

Royal Society

FRSFellow of the Royal SocietyRoyal Society of London
The President, Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, is a learned society. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society is the United Kingdom's and Commonwealth of Nations' Academy of Sciences and fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement.


white damp
*JS Haldane and JG Priestley, Respiration, Oxford University Press, 2nd Ed (1935)

Industrial Revolution

industrialindustrialismIndustrial Age
Coal mining was very dangerous owing to the presence of firedamp in many coal seams. Some degree of safety was provided by the safety lamp which was invented in 1816 by Sir Humphry Davy and independently by George Stephenson. However, the lamps proved a false dawn because they became unsafe very quickly and provided a weak light. Firedamp explosions continued, often setting off coal dust explosions, so casualties grew during the entire 19th century. Conditions of work were very poor, with a high casualty rate from rock falls. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, inland transport was by navigable rivers and roads, with coastal vessels employed to move heavy goods by sea.

Blantyre mining disaster

216 men had lost their livesThe High Blantyre Explosion
Notwithstanding Moore's claims for the Scottish safety lamp, the report's conclusions call for the banning of naked lights and the introduction of locked Davy lamps which "are better than the present safety lamps". The report also roundly criticises poor discipline (including shots being fired by unauthorised workers), poor ventilation around old or incomplete stoops and the whole method of ventilating one pit from another. The report does not come to a firm conclusion about how the explosion started.