The Flame Tube Project (and Contest Coming Soon!)

The Flame Tube Project (and Contest Coming Soon!)

Happy (almost) July 4th! Looking for more of the “rocket’s red glare?” The current issue of MAKE, Volume 26, features a DIY project I wrote called “The Flame Tube.” It’s one of my favorite fiery projects from my new book The Practical Pyromaniac because it’s quite the eyecatcher, it demonstrates some good science, and it has a bit of historical backstory. The flame tube is a 110 year old demonstration that allows onlookers to visualize standing sound waves.

Based on the work of German quantum physics pioneer, Heinrich Rubens, I designed this flame tube so propane gas inside the tube flows through holes drilled along the top, and flames are then lit above. I send a sound wave into the tube with a loudspeaker at the other end. When the tube is driven at one of its resonance frequencies, flames form a visual standing wave pattern, as you can see in the picture. Vary the pitch and change the volume to get different patters. Cool!

Heads Up: Flame Tube Video Contest
MAKE’s editors, in a display of extraordinary beneficence, have put the Flame Tube project on Make: Projects. I am working with Chicago Review Press (The Practical Pyromaniac’s publisher) to put together a Flame Tube contest with exciting prizes awarded for the best flame tube vid posted on YouTube. More to come… So start building your flame tube!


The Flame Tube

4 thoughts on “The Flame Tube Project (and Contest Coming Soon!)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Did this one for a highschool presentation. Everyone who’s seen us with the gas tank thought we were going to blow up the school :)) A lot of fun!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I still have a few improvements to make, but here’s a Reubens Tube with “stereo”.

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William Gurstelle

William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

View more articles by William Gurstelle


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