Ringing In The New Year With An Arduino And Calcium Carbide


It’s the first we’ve heard of it, but a New Year’s Eve tradition in The Netherlands called Carbidschieten sounds like it’s just up our alley. Basically, a small chunk of calcium carbide and a little bit of water is placed in a metal milk churn. The carbide decomposes into acetylene and a flame is held up to a small hole in the milk churn. The resulting explosion sends the lid of the milk churn across a field and much fun is had by all.

[Edwin Eefting],  [Johan Postema], [Elger Postema] are exploding 1000 liters of acetylene this New Years and needed a safe way to detonate their celebration. They came up with an electronic ignition system based on an Arduino that probably makes just as much noise as the explosion itself.

The build is basically an Arduino with a few relays. When a pair of buttons are pressed for longer than a second, the Arduino goes into countdown mode with the requisite alarms and ringing bells. When it’s time to fire the carbide cannon, a power supply is turned on that heats up a glow plug, igniting the acetylene. It’s a great build, and adds an adequate amount of safety for an event involving exploding 1000 liters of acetylene.

You can check out the videos of the countdown timer after the break, or check out the Facebook group here.


23 thoughts on “Ringing In The New Year With An Arduino And Calcium Carbide

  1. I would say that the countdown shouldn’t enable the glowplug, rather enable a fire button that somebody can push that would then enable the glowplug.

    There seems to be an emergency stop mushroom fair enough, but its easier to not push a button when someone runs in front of the cannon than have to push a button to stop the system.

    Not too sure about the countdown either, usually someone counts down or there is a buzzer/bell that just rings for a long time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the bell would be confusing, but it is certainly annoying. Sounds more like a telephone, be careful nobody tries to answer it.

    1. We’re not talking about blowing up coalmines with dynamite here. We’ve used this technique for more than 10 years now and I can assure you this is the ‘best practice’ way.

      The electronics and bells and wistles are just an extra luxury added on top off all the safety measures we already take: All the people in the ‘frontlines’ are already very aware of whats going to happen, before we even power on the device. There will be nobody within 30 meters behind the cannon, and nobody within hunderds of meters in front of it.

      The bells just warn the people that are on a safe place, but not paying attention. Especially the kids around like it very much and don’t get scared by a sudden loud explosion. And it allows the person who presses the buttons to plug his ears with his fingers instead of having to wear some kind of ear protection every time. :)

      If you live near, please come take a visit for some techtalk, explosions and beer. :)


    1. “Hash, prostitutes and carbide cannons, God bless the Netherlands!”
      What is this “god” you talk of? I don’t think we have such a thing here in the Netherlands. At least not any more.

  2. Wow! Talk about bringing back memories!

    When I was 10-12 I’d take a used can, punch a hole in the bottom, make a small hole in the ground, fill it with water, toss in some carbide, put the can over it and then touch a match in the end of a soda straw to the hole. For best results use a #10 (1 gallon) can.


    Can would shoot 20-30 ft in the air.

    Great fun if you’re the right age. Cheap too! Be warned, hurts like hell without the soda straw to hold the match ;-)

    Computer control is a bit over the top in my view, but everyone needs a hobby.

    BTW Acetylene filled balloons are fun too, though not quite as cool as shooting cans in the air.

  3. Man i love the Netherlands.
    Proud to be part dutch!
    When i was last there for NYE fireworks were legally bought and my god…. The city streets were filled with fireworks from 00:00 -> 04:00… And there were some damn near misses!

    I don’t know how safe blowing up acetylene inside of rusty old milk cans are but hey!
    Love it!

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