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Homework Help: Methyl cannon

  1. Jun 12, 2005 #1
    I was at a science museum earlier and I saw a demonstration where methyl alcohol was put in a bottle that had two nails sticking out of the sides. Alligator clips were connected to the nails and something was connected to the clips (I think they said it was a grill starter). There was a cork in the bottle. When the thing connected to the alligator clips was pressed the cork was blown off of the bottle.

    I don’t know what it was supposed to be a model of but I think it was either an engine or a piston (I missed the beginning of the demonstration).

    I would like to build one of theses for a project for my AP physics class but I need more detailed directions on how to make it. I mainly need to know what it was that was connected to the alligator clips.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2005 #2


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    The thing connected to the nails probably generated heat to ignite an alcohol air mixture. It was just a nice little explosion with expanding gas as a byproduct of burning the alcohol. This would be similar to what happens in an internal cumbustion engine, where exploding gas drives the pistons.

    I don't know the temperatures for sure, but you can get electric ingniters from a model rocket supply that would probably work and can be run off a battery. I expect they would get hot enough to ignite the mixture.
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