Make a Potato Popper
More fun than a sack of potatoes, potato poppers are a perfect parent-child project that's easy to build. Adult supervision is a must when building and launching these powerful potato poppers!
Materials: (Except for the sack of potatoes, you can find all the materials at your local hardware store)
A 16-inch copper pipe with a 1⁄2-inch diameter. Make sure it is straight and smooth.
A wooden dowel measuring 20 inches long with a 3/8-inch diameter
A metal file (fine)
Insect ID book or website
A sack of potatoes
Building and Launching:
Put on your safety glasses.
To make the copper pipe into the launch tube, you need to make sure that both ends of the pipe don’t have any rough edges. Use the metal file to smooth out the edges.
Set a large potato on a table or flat surface and hold it securely with one hand. With the other hand, push one end of the pipe all the way into the potato. One end of the pipe should now be sealed with a piece of potato.
Do the same with the other end of the copper pipe. Now both ends of the launch tube are plugged.
Making sure there are no people or animals in the area, line the potato popper toward your target.
Poke the back piece of potato with the wooden dowel until the front potato piece pops out of the tube. The “tuber torpedo” will fire from the popper at a very fast speed with a loud pop.
It takes plenty of practice to become a potato popper marksman.
Why it works:
Your potato popper launches high-speed potato projectiles when you decrease the space between both pieces of potato you increase the air pressure. The increased air pressure will eventually force the front potato to launch. The physics behind the potato popper is described by Boyle’s Law which states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional.
The Super High-Altitude Research Project (SHARP) developed at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California by the US military was an 82-meter-long (269 feet) prototype gas gun like the potato popper except it used hydrogen gas and was designed to potentially destroy incoming missiles and launch satellites into orbit. The SHARP gun could fire 5 kg projectiles at approximately 2,979 kilometers per hour (1,851 miles per hour).