Smarter Every Day/YouTube

Watch a brave engineer ignite a potato cannon in 20,000 glorious frames per second

Big bada boom.

FIONA MACDONALD
22 JUL 2016
 

We've all had the urge to stare at explosions at some point in time. But just imagine if you could contain an explosion within a transparent box, hold it in your hands, and then film the whole thing at 20,000 frames per second?

 

That's precisely what Destin from Smarter Every Day has done in this latest episode, and, oh my, is it pretty.

A far cry from your average potato gun, this homemade transparent potato cannon is capable of punching a hole right through a watermelon. But what's going on on the inside is even more fascinating.

As Destin shows when he lights this bad boy up, it's the combination of oxygen and fuel within the combustion chamber that causes the entire thing to light up like some kind of giant lightsaber, before the pressure waves eventually blast the potato out the other side. 

The purpose for filming it at a super slow rate of 20,000 frames per second (other than the awesome footage) is to test out one of Destin's working hypotheses - he predicts that if the cannon is ignited from the centre of the combustion chamber, the explosion will spread more efficiently than if it's sparked from the back of the barrel.

To work this out, he sets up his own system of electrodes halfway down the cannon, and tests both options at night so you can get a true sense of exactly how powerful these explosions are - and see the entire combustion process in action.

We don't want to give away the end results, but let's just say there's a lot of cool science involved in figuring out which trigger point is best for an efficient explosion. And sometimes the best science is the kind that proves you wrong (plus did we mention it's pretty?)

Goes without saying, hopefully, but don't try this at home.

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