Kitchen Science Experiments

Fire Piston

Sun, 22nd Apr 2007

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What you Need

We used a large "fire piston" this is an ancient fire lighting device from SE Asia. The one we used is basically a large transparent bicycle pump, but with nowhere for the air to get out at the bottom.

The Fire Piston

Some cotton wool is teased out and then placed in the bottom of the cylinder. The plunger is then pushed down incredibly hard.

Base of the firepiston

What to do

What may happen

When the plunger is pushed down very fast the cotton wool gets immensely hot and bursts into flames. This was used in the Burma, Malaysia Borneo region as a way of starting fires. These were made of horn or bamboo and would light a small piece of tinder. It is thought that Rudolf Diesel saw one of these and it gave him an idea..