Oil lamps are containers that used simple scientific principles to work. These used a wick that used air to light up and the capillary action from the lamp helped give fuel to the fire. As the same burns, the oil at the top is consumed, used more, and thus drawn up using the wick. The quality of the wick determines the extent of capillary action and the volume of oil consumed.
The wick that fails to burn uses a constantly absorbing fuel that burns instead of cloth.