If you’re like us, understanding the processes and methods of the early Industrial Revolution involved some hand waving. Take the blast furnace, which relies on a steady supply of compressed air to stoke the fire and supply the oxygen needed to smelt iron from ore. How exactly was air compressed before electricity? We assumed it would have been from a set of bellows powered by a water wheel, and of course that method was used, but it turns out there’s another way to get compressed air from water: the trompe.
As [Grady] from Practical Engineering explains in the short video below, the trompe was a clever device used to create a steady supply of high-pressure compressed air. To demonstrate the process, he breaks out his seemingly inexhaustible supply of clear acrylic piping to build a small trompe. The idea is to use water falling around a series of tubes to create a partial vacuum and entrain air bubbles. The bubbles are pulled down a vertical tube by the turbulence of the water, and then enter a horizontal section where the flow evens out. The bubbles rise to the top of the horizontal tube where they are tapped off by another vertical tube, as the degassed water continues into a second vertical section, the height of which determines the pressure of the stored air. It’s ingenious, requiring no power and no moving parts, and scales up well – [Grady] relates a story about one trompe that provided compressed air commercially for mines in Canada.
Need an electricity-free way to pump water instead of air? Check out this hydraulic ram pump that takes its power from the water it pumps.
Continue reading “Get Compressed Air From Falling Water With The Trompe”
You’ve got to hand it to [Tom Stanton] – he really thinks outside the box. And potentially outside the atmosphere, to wit: we present his reaction control gas thruster-controlled drone.
Before anyone gets too excited, [Tom] isn’t building drones for use in a vacuum, although we can certainly see a use case for such devices. This is more of a hybrid affair, with counter-rotating props mounted in a centrally located duct providing the lift and the yaw control. Flanking that is a triangular frame supporting three two-liter soda bottle air reservoirs, each of which supplies a down-firing nozzle at each apex of the triangle. Solenoid valves control the flow of compressed air from the bottles to the nozzles, providing thrust to stabilize the roll and pitch axes. As there aren’t many off-the-shelf flight control systems set up for reaction control, [Tom] had to improvise thruster control; an Arduino watches the throttle signals normally sent to a drone’s motors and fires the solenoids when they get to a preset threshold. It took some tuning, but [Tom] was eventually able to get a stable, untethered hover. And he’s right – the RCS jets do sound amazing when they’re firing, as long as the main motors are off.
This looks as though it has a lot of potential, and we’d love to see it developed more. It reminds us a bit of this ducted-prop drone, another great example of stretching conventional drone control concepts to the limit.
Continue reading “Unconventional Drone Uses Gas Thrusters For Control”
Fidget spinners were the hottest new craze at one point, but their 15 minutes of fame has well and truly passed. They’re great for fidgeting, and not a whole lot else. One of the main objectives around their use is to spin them as quickly as possible. After [Sushi Ramen] hurt himself after spinning one up with compressed air, however – a new and dangerous idea came to mind.
What you’re looking at is a fidget spinner sword, powered by compressed air. That alone is somewhat of a blessing, as it prevents this horrifying device from being easily man-portable. Through a breakneck build montage, we see almost fifty fidget spinners (in hyperchrome, no less) mounted to a shaft. The shaft is then attached to a hilt and a plastic line is artfully bent up to deliver compressed air at the pull of a trigger, causing the fidget spinners to rotate at moderate speed.
It’s true that the fidget spinners don’t receive a whole lot of torque from the compressed air and thus most of the damage is done purely by swinging the presumably quite heavy device at fragile glass objects. That said, with nothing ventured, nothing is gained, and we’re always glad to see research and development continuing in the fidget spinner space.
Looking for more effective ways to spin, and spin quickly? Check out this brushless motor setup. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Weaponized Fidget Spinners”
Storing electrical energy is a huge problem. A lot of gear we use every day use some form of battery and despite a few false starts at fuel cells, that isn’t likely to change any time soon. However, batteries or other forms of storage are important in many alternate energy schemes. Solar cells don’t produce when it is dark. Windmills only produce when the wind blows. So you need a way to store excess energy to use for the periods when you aren’t creating electricity. [Kris De Decker] has an interesting proposal: store energy using compressed air.
Compressed air storage is not a new idea. On a large scale, there have been examples of air compressed in underground caverns and then released to run a turbine at a future date. However, the efficiency of this is poor — around 40 to 50 percent — mainly because the air heats up during compression and often needs to be prewarmed (using energy from another source) prior to decompression to prevent freezing. By comparison, batteries can be 70 to 90 percent efficient, although they have their own problems, too.
The idea explored in this paper is not to try to store a power plant’s worth of energy in a giant underground cavern, but rather use smaller compressed air setups like you would use batteries to store power at the point of consumption. The technology is called micro-CAES (an acronym for compressed air energy storage).
Continue reading “Their Battery Is Full Of Air”
Some folks just can’t leave well enough alone, and that often ends up being a good thing. Such is the case with this 3D-printed compressed air engine, which just keeps getting better.
The design has changed a lot since we first covered [Tom Stanton]’s attempts at reviving the powerplant from the glory days of the Air Hogs line of toys, which he subsequently built a plane around. The engine was simple, with a ball valve that admitted air into the cylinder when a spring mounted to the top of the piston popped it out of the way. That spring has always bothered [Tom], though, compelling him to go back to the drawing board. He wanted to replace the ball valve with one actuated by a cam and pushrod. This would increase the complexity of the engine quite a bit, but with the benefit of eliminating the fail point of the spring. With a few iterations in the design, he was able to relocate the ball valve, add a cam to the crankshaft, and use a pushrod to open the valve. The new design works much better than the previous version, sounding more like a lawnmower than a 3D-printed engine should. Check out the design process and some tests in the video below.
And speaking of lawnmowers that run on compressed air…
Continue reading “Cams And Pushrods Improve 3D-Printed Compressed Air Engine”
One of the most important considerations when flying remote-controlled airplanes is weight. Especially if the airplane has a motor, this has a huge potential impact on weight. For this reason, [gzumwalt] embarked on his own self-imposed challenge to build an engine with the smallest weight and the lowest parts count possible, and came away with a 25-gram, 8-part engine.
The engine is based around a single piston and runs on compressed air. The reduced parts count is a result of using the propeller axle as a key component in the engine itself. There are flat surfaces on the engine end of the axle which allow it to act as a valve and control its own timing. [gzumwalt] notes that this particular engine was more of a thought experiment and might not actually produce enough thrust to run an airplane, but that it certainly will spark up some conversations among RC enthusiasts.
The build is also one of the first designs in what [gzumwalt] hopes will be a series of ever-improving engine designs. Perhaps he should join forces with this other air-powered design that we’ve just recently featured. Who else is working on air-powered planes? Who knew that this was a thing?
Continue reading “3D Printed Airplane Engine Runs On Air”
[TheBackyardScientist] at it again with another super villain-esque demonstration of gadgetry: a liquid metal squirt gun.
The squirt gun has a compressed air tank like most others — more on that later — but to fire its primary ammunition, a nozzle that connects directly to an air compressor is needed. Again, like most guns of this nature, air is forced into the gun’s reservoir, displacing the pewter and expelling it out the gun’s barrel. Yes, pewter.
Working around the heat tolerances of thread seal tape, pewter has a low enough melting point that an airtight system is preserved — plus it’s really cool to fire a stream of liquid metal. The ammunition is made from pewter ware melted down and cast into pucks. These pucks are stacked into the gun’s magazine, melted with a propane torch and carefully loaded into the gun.
The built-in compressed air tank lacks the oomph to push out the pewter — hence the air compressor, but any lighter liquids or condiments are fair game for rapid-fire exercises. Yes, condiments.
Continue reading “Wield The Power Of Molten Metal”