Science
Explosive drop of glass

Prince Rupert Glassdrop

Awesome science, beautiful imagery –

If you want a scientific display of the dangers of pent-up stress, Prince Rupert’s drops are it. After the trauma of being dropped molten-hot into a bucket of cold water, these glass balls, named for a 17th-century amateur scientist, turn into bundles of high tension. They’re impervious to even the strongest blows, until you find their hot button: Flick the tail, and they explode.

See the violent release of potential energy on video – Shattering the Strongest Glass on PopSci.com

14 thoughts on “Explosive drop of glass

  1. It seems you just stole the idea for this post from Theodore Gray’s column in last month’s Popular Science. You deserve no credit for this.

  2. I followed it – great explanation! I was always jealous of the metal workers, they could finish something and heave it into a bucket of water – glass, we have to make sure it all stays pretty consistently heated, and anneal it for a long time so it all relaxes and is happy and won’t shatter. Nice find. :)

  3. @ Daniel Mellstrom- You sir, are an idiot. The link goes to PopSci. There is no ‘idea’ in this post, nor does Collin or MAKE take credit for it. It is merely a ‘lookit this!’, so to speak.

    This is another example of MAKE directing us to a really neat thing that we might have never seen otherwise.I am an ASE certified mechanic,bodyman,and car MAKEr for 30+ years, and never understood how that glass shattered like that. Now, thanks to Collin and MAKE I do.

    I would have never seen it in PopSci.com if it had not appeared here. I would imagine that PopSci and it’s advertisers are happy for the traffic.

    You (Daniel) just can’t get over Collin’s skill with the Hula Hoop. That must be it.

    Chill. Yep. Well said.

  4. Without actual glassworking equipment it is quite difficult to make drops anywhere as large and impressive as those; but you can make small ones with ~30 dollars worth of materials, some you might already have.

    Because of demand from lampworkers, thin rods of soda-lime glass are easy to obtain and quite inexpensive.
    http://www.sundanceglass.com/morettir.htm is a representative example; but there are numerous other sellers. These “soft glass” rods can be heated to a sufficiently liquid consistency with an ordinary blowtorch, yours for 15 dollars or so from any decent hardware store. Do Not, repeat Do Not, order borosilicate or “hard glass” rods unless you have access to a more powerful heat source.

    To actually make the drops, fill a large bowl or pot with water and, wearing eye protection, use the blowtorch to melt one end of the rod. When a sufficiently large part of the rod has softened, it will drip off, into the water. Most of your drops will probably shatter within moments of hitting the surface. Experiment with various drop heights, and be persistent. My success rate was only ~10%.

    The actual glassworking part of this exercise is actually fairly safe; but the drops themselves can, and do, shatter quite violently, wear eye protection.

  5. @Daniel – We authors here @ Make do pay attention and care about what goes on here in the comments. We try to keep the discussions useful, honest, and relevant. Please try to do the same.

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