Phenomena

Carboy Combustion

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Lighting a thin layer of ethyl alcohol in a jug produces some beautiful pulse jets and a moving wall of flame that shifts and flows according to the changing pressures inside the jug. Like the video’s author, we do NOT recommend trying this combustion demo yourself.

As for the video’s questions, firstly, blowing into the jar helps the flame because humans do not exhale pure CO2. With regard to the second question, the interior of the jug is initially thinly coated in ethyl alcohol vapor. Combustion starts at the top of the jug and the sheet of flame moves downward as the fuel at the top is spent. As that flame moves downward, however, it’s heating the air inside the jug, which expands and is forced out the opening. When the flame goes out in the upper part of the jug, that does not mean all of the fuel has combusted, simply that the ratio of air/fuel is insufficient for continued combustion. I suspect the flame persists at this opening because the air/fuel mixture is concentrated at that point. Any residual ethyl alcohol in the container is forced out through that narrow opening, and the resulting concentration of fuel there may be high enough to keep the flame burning there. (idea submitted by davidbenque #)

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