Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How a Fire Piston Works


The goal of this article is to take an in-depth look at a fire-starting tool called a fire piston. You may have seen Les Stroud (Survivorman) use a fire piston on his “Alaska Adventure” episode in season 3. If you are reading this article, then chances are you were asking yourself “how does that work?” Here is the down and dirty on the fire piston.

There are suggestions that the fire piston was developed by some indigenous Indonesian, Southeast Asian, and Philippine cultures and “in widespread use”. (Univeristy of Bristol credit) It also seems that where fire pistons were developed and in use were also areas in which people had mastered blow-guns, another pneumatic invention that is most certainly too uncanny to dismiss as coincidence. (Credit) It is highly likely that the fire piston is, in a disjoint manner, an evolution of early blow gun technology. It would make sense that this be true, as a pneumatic seal would need to be mastered in order to make an effective blow gun, and cultures with this technology would be the most likely to further employ its use in fire piston development. A NYT article from October 9 of 1876 talks about fire piston use as a “philosophical play-thing,” citing it’s first recorded “invention” by western cultures as 1745 in Italy. According to the article, a scientist was doing experiments with *again* a blow-gun when he discovered its potential to release massive amounts of heat energy into the contained system. With this evidence, it seems highly likely that the technology of blow-guns gave rise to the technology of fire pistons.

So how does it work? Well, it’s rather a simple concept. What happens inside the fire piston when the user violently brings the plunger down is a sharp decrease in internal gas volume. The pressure inside the fire piston spikes to massive proprtions. This, in turn, causes the molecules of gas inside the piston to become highly energetic. So energetic, in fact, that they are now hot enough to light combustible materials easily. See, very simple. Watch this video below to see it in action.

Photo Credit: Lesstroud.ca

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think: