Hooked on Science: Fire tornado

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A fire tornado is a rare event that occurs when fire is whipped up by strong, dry air to form a whirlwind of fire. Using a few ingredients from around the house, you can create your own fire tornado. This experiment should be performed by an adult. If not performed correctly, it could be dangerous.

Materials

* Fireproof bowl

* Lazy Susan turntable

* Lighter fluid

* Wire screen

* Staples

* Sponge

* Grill lighter

* Fire extinguisher

Instructions

STEP 1: Roll the wire screen into a cylinder and secure the wire screen with the staples.

STEP 2: Cut the sponge into four pieces. Place two of the sponge pieces into the fireproof bowl.

STEP 3: Soak the sponge pieces in lighter fluid.

STEP 4: Place the fireproof bowl in the center of the Lazy Susan and ignite the sponge pieces.

STEP 5: Place the wire screen on the Lazy Susan and spin.

Explanation

The fire heats the air, which expands, becomes less dense, and then floats upward. Cold air replaces the warm air. The wire screen forces the air replacing the rising warm air up to rotate. As the air moves closer to the center, it spins faster causing the flame to spin in a unique way.

Jason Lindsey is a science outreach educator with Hooked on Science. Check out his website www.hookedonscience.org for webcasts and experiments that might get you hooked on science. Send him your science questions at jlindseyhookedonscience.com. More science experiments can be found on www.semissourian.com.

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