Piezoelectric Cannon

A classic, easily replicated demonstration of the principles involved in internal combustion of a fuel. An arc of electrons traveling through a sealed canister of fuel activates a chemical reaction, releasing heat and light energy.

Items

  • Film canister
  • Spark plug
  • Test tube
  • Perfume
  • Pipette

A classic, easily replicated demonstration of the principles involved in internal combustion of a fuel. An arc of electrons traveling through a sealed canister of fuel activates a chemical reaction, releasing heat and light energy.

The elastic seal of the canister’s “snap-on” airtight top allows enough pressure to build from the heated, expanding gases to provided a launch force that is strong enough to propel the canister a distance of a few meters. In a darkened classroom, students may observe a flaming “tail”.

Safety Parameters:
1. Wrap the igniter/cable connection carefully in electrical tape to avoid a painful electric shock.
2. Use only a tiny amount of fuel. I recommend using a simple, disposable dropper to add one or two drops in lieu of dipping your finger in the fuel and rubbing it along the edges of the container. If there is unreacted fuel still burning in the canister when you retrieve it after launch, the remaining flame may ignite the fuel residue on your fingertip.
3. Aim canister away from glass structures and combustibles and away from the classroom door.

4. Store fuel or perfume in a flammable storage unit preferably in a separate room.
5. Lock your igniter away after the lesson and avoid leaving the igniter unattended. Unwitting students could accidentally shock themselves or another student with it.
6. Watch carefully where the canister lands after being launched and avoid attempting to pick the canister up with your bare hands. It may continue burning for several seconds after landing and could ignite nearby combustibles. So quickly retrieve it wearing a heat resistant glove similar to the ones shown in our video.

copyright © Science House 2009