Flour-Based Flamethrower

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Years ago, I posted a video of my version of the t-shirt launcher project. Recently, I retrofitted that cannon to shoot ordinary flour, which is then ignited, producing huge fire balls. The great thing about flour is that it is not flammable unless it is aerosolized, making it much safer than most other fuels. This could be a great platform for some kind of flame-belching pumpkin or other Halloween prop.

22 thoughts on “Flour-Based Flamethrower

  1. Christian Restifo says:

    I’m all for fun with fire, but a word of warning to anyone wanting to do this. Flour dust is not flammable; it’s explosive. Dusts like this in industry require suppression systems, flame detectors, and/or explosion panels to protect equipment and people. People have died from dust explosions.

    If you’re going to do this (and, to be honest, I just might do it for some Cub Scouts), please be careful and keep a safe distance like this person. You’re not making a flame; you’re detonating a dust.

    1. Chris Hamlin says:

      I’m going to have to disagree with you Christian, there is a chemical difference between burning (deflagration) and detonation. 

      in the video, you hear a “whumph” sound, and see a fireball, both of which indicate a deflagration reaction- fuel burning rapidly in air. This can produce a damaging explosion, but only when confined-  the dust explosions that kill people occur in confined spaces such as coal mines, grain elevators and flour mills.  

      detonation is an entirely different phenomenon, where the reaction is propagated not by heat but by a supersonic shock wave moving through the material. This occurs in high explosives like C4 or nitroglycerin, which produce damaging blast waves even when unconfined.

      so as long as you are doing it OUTDOORS, as the video shows, it’s as ‘safe’ as any large fire. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    It also works well with sawdust and powdered coffee creamer. (As seen on Mythbusters!)

    1. Daniel says:

      And yet works best with just plain icing sugar (the sugar for creating icing with).

      With flour you’re having to break the more complex starch bonds to get to the glucose to then release the energy. plus flour has all kinds of other additives and fortifiers that mostly just don’t burn that well.

      Coffee creamer has even more, which is why I don’t understand why they deicded that was the best to use on mythbusters.

      basically what happens is the glocose oxidises to form carbon dioxide and water.

      C6H12O6 (s) + 6O2(g) –> 6CO2(g) + 6H2O(g)

      That’s the reason that at the end of the Mythbusters episode they are left with a creme brule type crust on the ground, all the fat and unburned sugar that was left is mixed with the water and cakes the ground.

      since the reaction with both coffee creamer and flour is glocose oxidising why not just go straight for pure glucose?

      The effect is called atomised fuel explosion.
      it’s a principal used everywhere from fuel bombs to internal combustion engines.

      1. Peter Simpson says:

        Powdered sugar more expensive than flour?  But the experiment of which (literally) offers more “bang for the buck” is a fun one and definitely needs be done (and videoed)!

      2. Anonymous says:

        Thank you. I’d wondered why it was such an efficient conflagration. Evidently, my high school chemistry class has failed me. (Darn you, Mr. B!)

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  4. Peter Larson says:

    The Gold Medal Flour building blew up this way a long time ago in Minneapolis, there was enough flour in the air that static electricity built up and sparked on something and all the flour exploded and blew part of the building off into the river. It’s a museum now.

  5. Jack Coats says:

    This is why big grain silo’s blow up.  Even the tall concrete ones can ‘blow apart’ because of ‘grain dust explosions’.  Still, great demo!

  6. DC says:

    Where might we find plans to build this thing?  I would love to make one!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I believe it’s called a fuel/air explosive.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net

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