A French pharmacist invented a catalytic diffuser in 1898 to purify the air in sick rooms and hospitals and remove bad odors. The Lampe Berger, named for its inventor, caught on with the general public, especially after notable designers such as Baccarat and Lalique designed collectible versions. The Paris company claims that the lamp cleanses the air in a whole house by converting unhealthy and unstable odor molecules into harmless substances, using a flameless stone burner that heats and diffuses aromatic oils. The science isn't in about the lamps, but they have a worldwide following and are still designed by premier porcelain-makers.
Use Your Lampe Berger
Step 1: Place the lamp on a flat stable surface...
...away from a stove or other heat source. Remove the cap and the burner and fill the lamp no more than 2/3 full with the proprietary perfumed oil.
Step 2: Insert the wick into the neck of the lamp...
...with the stone resting on the opening. Put the snuffer cap back on the lamp and let the wick and stone absorb the oil for about 20 minutes.
Step 3: Light the stone with a match and let the flame burn for 2 minutes.
Blow out the flame and place the perforated shade over the stone. Let the stone burn for between 25 to 45 minutes for a 200- to 300-square foot space.
Step 4: Carefully remove the protective open shade to extinguish the lamp.
Put the snuffer cap on the stone with the open shade over that. The shade could be quite hot, so handle it cautiously.
Store the lamp out of reach of small children and pets, and don't leave a hot lamp unattended.
The Oil and the Ozone
Lampe Berger makes its own fragrances in a purified form of isopropyl alcohol infused with perfume. The company says their oil burns cleaner and at a different temperature from regular alcohol. It releases a scent that is strong and non-carcinogenic. The process of burning the lamp is supposed to create a low-level release of ozone as it purifies the oxygen in the room, removing 68 percent of the bacteria in a 400-square-foot room in 40 minutes. No peer-reviewed scientific studies of the efficacy of the Lampe Berger have been published, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that ozone can cause a respiratory reaction that ranges from mild irritation to full-blown asthma, chest pains and lung damage. Using the Lampe Berger in a closed setting could result in higher concentrations of ozone in the room than are advisable.