This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
The little apparatus shown in the accompanying cut will certainly find favor with smokers, as well as with persons generally who often have need of a fire or light. It forms one of the most direct applications of dry piles of all the systems on the Desruelles plan. Instead of filling piles with a liquid, this plan contemplates the introduction into them of a sort of asbestos sponge saturated with an acid or any suitable solution. In this way there is obtained the advantage of having a pile which is in some sort dry, that may be moved, shaken, or upset without any outflow of liquid, and which will prove of special value when applied to movable apparatus, such as portable lighters, alarms on ships, railroads, etc. It is hardly necessary to say that while the introduction of this inert substance diminishes the volume of the liquid, the electro-motive force of the pile is thereby in nowise affected, but its internal resistance is increased. This, however, is of no consequence in the application under consideration. The lighter consists of a small, round, wooden box containing the pile, and surmounted by a spirit lamp. A platinum spiral opposite the wick serves for producing the light. The pile is a bichromate of potash element, in which there is substituted for the liquid a solution of bichromate identical with that used in bottle piles. The zinc is suspended from a small lever, in which it is only necessary to press slightly to bring the former in contact with the asbestos paste, when, the zinc being attached, a current is set up which traverses the spiral, heats it to redness, and lights the spirit. The pile, when once charged, may be used for several hundred lightings. When the spiral no longer becomes red hot, it is only necessary to replace the paste - an operation of extreme simplicity. When the pressure is removed from the little lever, the zinc, being raised, is no longer acted upon by the liquid with which the asbestos is saturated. Mr Desruelles is constructing upon the same principle a gas lighter, the pile of which is fixed at the extremity of a handle whose length varies with the height of the gas burners to be reached. These little domestic apparatus are being exhibited at the Paris Electrical Exhibition.