When the plunger in the transparent cylinder is rapidly pushed down over a piece of cotton or paper towel, ignition occurs. This is one of the most impressive demonstrations of the heat produced when a gas is rapidly compressed - the principle of the Diesel engine ignition. Safety Glasses required. Approximately 22 cm tall (~8.5 in.). (Not appropriate for elementary schools.) Comfort Knob for Fire Syringe:
This heavy duty spherical knob makes the Fire Syringe easier to use. Recommended for anyone who does repeated demonstrations. Also makes a great replacement part. Read more on our Blog - The Fire Syringe!
Download the pdf of this lesson!
When the piston in the transparent cylinder is rapidly depressed using a quick, firm stroke
over dry cotton or paper tissue fibers, ignition occurs. The compression of the air causes
the temperature of the gas to rise rapidly, igniting the material at the base of the cylinder
resulting in a bright flash. This is one of the most impressive demonstrations of the heat
produced when a gas is rapidly compressed and is the principle behind how a diesel
The Fire Syringe is very sensitive to moisture, so to insure the proper results you should
first clean the apparatus thoroughly. No cleansers or solvents are necessary. Simply
wipe the piston thoroughly using a clean, dry paper towel. Next, twist a piece of paper
towel into a long slender swab, and clean the chamber all the way to the bottom. The
goal is to remove all oil from the inside of the chamber. A small amount of oil on the orings
is sufficient lubrication.
Next, place a small piece of dry material in the chamber of the syringe. Paper or cotton
fibers are common samples. Our personal favorite is cotton from cotton balls. You want
only a "thin wisp" of cotton fibers for each demonstration. Pluck it off the edge of a
cotton ball and then "tease out" the fibers to maximize the surface area of your cotton
sample. Push the sample to the bottom of the chamber with a pencil or other long thin
Place the piston into the mouth of the chamber and thread the collar back onto the
syringe. Place the syringe on a sturdy table. Get a firm grip on the handle and force the
piston straight down, FAST AND HARD. If it does not fire, withdraw the piston all the
way until it is loose inside the collar (this allows fresh oxygen to enter the chamber
through the small hole in the collar) and force the piston straight down again, FAST AND
HARD. You may need to pump it repeatedly four or five times, withdrawing the piston
to the collar each time, before you get a flash. This can take a little practice, so don't be
discouraged if it doesn't flash the first time you try it.
If you don't get a flash after several tries you may have used up your fuel sample (you
may have noticed little puffs of smoke indicating some combustion). You will need to
remove the collar and retract the plunger. Use your paper towel swab or pencil to remove
the used material from cylinder. The swab will also displace the "used" air from the
cylinder, allowing more fresh air to refill the cylinder.
WARNING: Under NO circumstances should you use flash paper, liquid fuels, match
heads, gun powder, or any fuels not specifically recommended in the instructions. Such
volatile fuels could cause the Fire Syringe tube to shatter. Safety glasses are
recommended for use with this product.
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Nov 14, 2014 | By David Wilson of Louisville, MS United States
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Great discrepant event
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Wonderful illustration of Boyle's Law
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This product will support your students' understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)*, as shown in the table below.
Suggested Science Idea(s)
The Fire Syringe Demonstration is recommended for use with students in middle school and older.
Students can use the Fire Syringe Demonstration in an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by temperature of the sample.
Students can use the Fire Syringe Demonstration to construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
DCI/PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer.
When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time.
Students can use the Fire Syringe Demonstration in an investigation to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known.
Students can use the Fire Syringe Demonstration in an investigation to develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as either motions or particles or energy stored in fields.
DCI/PS3.A: Definitions of Energy.
At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.
DCI/PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems.
Students can use the Fire Syringe Demonstration to show the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The adiabatic change in the chamber when the plunger of the piston is compressed quickly ignites the cotton threads or paper; Temperature (approximately 400°C) and internal energy of the gas trapped in the syringe went up in a flash of fire.
The Fire Syringe Demonstration can provide evidence for investigations of thermal energy. When two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system, it results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the system (Second Law of Thermodynamics).
* NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.