[NightHawkInLight] has been developing his design for a vacuum canon for a while now, so it seems fitting to drop in check out the progress. The idea is pretty straightforward, take a long rigid tube, insert a close fitting piston, magnetically attached to a projectile, and stopper the open end with something easily destroyed. The piston needs to be pulled into the tube with some force, to pull a vacuum against the stopper. The interesting bit happens next, when the piston exits the other end of the tube, with the vacuum at its maximum, there is a sudden inrush of air. Apparently this inrush of supersonic velocity, and the momentum of the mass of air is sufficient to eject the projectile at considerable velocity, smashing through the plug and demolishing the target. So long as the target is of the soft and squishy variety anyway.
It’s an interesting idea, and certainly gives plenty of bang for not many bucks. That big lump of acrylic tubing (presumably used for ease of explanation in the video) looks fairly expensive to buy off the shelf, but we reckon any old pipe would probably work out fine.
Those of us who enjoy seeing mechanical carnage have been blessed by the rise of video sharing services and high speed cameras. Oftentimes, these slow motion videos are heavy on destruction and light on science. However, this video from [Smarter Every Day] is worth watching, purely for the fluid mechanics at play when a supersonic baseball hits a 1-gallon jar of mayo.
The experiment uses the baseball cannon that [Destin] of [Smarter Every Day] built last year. Ostensibly, the broader aim of the video is to characterize the baseball cannon’s performance. Shots are fired with varying pressures applied to the air tank and vacuum levels applied to the barrel, and the data charted.
However, the real glory starts 18:25 into the video, where a baseball is fired into the gigantic jar of mayo. The jar is vaporized in an instant from the sheer power of the collision, with the mayo becoming a potent-smelling aerosol in a flash.
Amazingly, the slow-motion camera reveals all manner of interesting phenomena. There’s a flash of flame as the ball hits the jar, suggesting compression ignition happened at impact with the jar’s label. A shadow from the shockwave ahead of the ball can be seen in the video, and particles in the cloud of mayo can be seen changing direction as the trailing shock catches up.
The slow-motion footage deserves to be shown in flow-visualization classes, not only because it’s awesome, but because it’s a great demonstration of supersonic flow phenomena. Video after the break.
A few weeks ago, a video went viral on social media that depicted a rather unsavory individual receiving what could be described as a “percussive reminder” of social norms courtesy of a bystander armed with a can of Twisted Tea. The video served as inspiration for many a meme, but perhaps none more technically intricate than this air cannon that launches 24 ounces of hard iced tea at better than 100 miles per hour built by [Greg Bejtlich].
Technically we’re looking at two different hacks here. The first is the pneumatic launcher put together using a low-cost eBay tire bead seater. These tools are designed to unleash a large volume of air into a tire so it can be properly seated onto the rim, but it doesn’t take much more than a few pieces of PVC pipe from the hardware store to turn it into an impromptu mortar. It’s even got a convenient trigger and a handle to help control the recoil. Though as you can see in the video after the break, it still ends up being a bit too energetic for [Greg] to keep a grip on.
For the projectiles, [Greg] has 3D printed a nose cone and tail fin that snap onto the 24 oz cans in hopes of making them more aerodynamically stable. The slow motion video seems to indicate they aren’t terribly effective, but they certainly look impressive. Spring-loaded control surfaces that deploy after the can leaves the muzzle could be the answer, though at some point you have to ask yourself how far you’re willing to go for an Internet meme.
This one comes to us by well-known purveyor of eyebrow-singing projects [NightHawkInLight], whose propane torch never seems to get a break. The idea here is a large scale version of an apparently popular trick where the “flints” from lighters, which are actually rods of ferrocerium, an aptly named alloy of iron and cerium, are heated to a nearly molten state and dropped onto a hard surface. The molten alloy thence explodes in a shower of sparks, to the mirth and merriment of those in attendance.
[NightHawkInLight]’s version of the trick scales everything up. Rather than lighter flints, he uses ferrocerium rods from firestarters of the type used for camping. The rod is stuffed into a barrel formed from steel brake line which is connected to the output of a PVC air chamber. His ominpresent propane torch is attached in such a way as the flame plays upon the loaded pyrophoric plug, heating it to a molten state before the air is released from the chamber. The massive display of sparks seen in the video below is pretty impressive, but we’re getting tired of gender reveal parties and forest fires. We just hope he had fire extinguishers on hand.
When professional engineers are giggling like kids, you know something interesting is about to happen. [Destin Sandlin] of [Smarter Every Day], [Jeremy Fielding], and a few other like-minded individuals have built a very impressive air cannon, capable of launching baseballs at supersonic velocities.
The muzzleloading canon consists of a large pressure chamber and vacuum chamber stuck together, with a plug and baseball separating the two. The barrel forms part of the vacuum chamber, and is sealed off at the muzzle end with plastic tape that ruptures when fired. The firing mechanism runs the entire length of the pressure chamber, exiting out the back where it is held in place by a large pneumatic sear mechanism. When the sear is released, it “pops the cork” between the two chambers, sending high-pressure nitrogen into the vacuum chamber, forcing the ball forward. This causes the plug rod to shoot out the back of the pressure chamber, where it is stopped by a pneumatic piston. The entire thing is permanently mounted on a trailer. A professional-looking control box is used to operate the beast from behind the safety of a steel blast shield.
Be sure to watch the videos after the break with subtitles turned on. The first is the highlights reel, and the second is a very entertaining hour-long behind the scenes look. To the surprise of the builders, they were able to shoot a baseball at Mach 1.38 (1050 mph or 1690 km/h) on the very first try, with only a partially pressurized system and a leaking vacuum chamber. When impacting the thick steel target, the ball disintegrates completely, imprinting its stitches on the target. [Destin] and co recorded the results with his usual high-speed cameras, but also included a Schlieren rig that allowed them to photograph the shock waves and Mach cones generated by the speeding ball. After a few shots, the bolts were stripped out of the pneumatic piston that stops the plug rod, which is no surprise judging by how much the steel frame flexes in that area. Continue reading “Making Baseballs Go Supersonic”→
Amateur radio is an eclectic hobby, to say the least. RF propagation, electrical engineering, antenna theory – those are the basics for the Ham skillset. But pneumatics? Even that could come in handy for hanging up antennas, which is what this compressed-air cannon is designed to do.
[KA8VIT]’s build will be familiar to any air cannon aficionado. Built from 2″ Schedule 40 PVC, the reservoir is connected to the short barrel by a quarter-turn ball valve. Charging is accomplished through a Schrader valve with a cheap little tire inflator, and the projectile is a tennis ball weighted with a handful of pennies stuffed through a slit. Lofting an antenna with this rig is as simple as attaching a fishing line to the ball and using that to pull successively larger lines until you can pull the antenna itself. [KA8VIT] could only muster about 55 PSI and a 70′ throw for the first attempt shown below, but a later attempt with a bigger compressor got him over 100 feet. We’d guess that a bigger ball valve might get even more bang for the buck by dumping as much air as quickly as possible into the chamber.
Looking to launch a tennis ball for non-Ham reasons? We’ve got you covered whether you want to power it with butane or carbon dioxide.