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Thread: HELP! How to use static eletricty to generate a spark in living animals (real life dragons)

  1. #1 HELP! How to use static eletricty to generate a spark in living animals (real life dragons) 
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    I am writing a fiction on real life dragons and i am trying to explain the science of how they breathe fire. So far I have got that they produce a highly flammable acetone based gas by extract acetone from fat and mixing it to the required concentration in the insulated gland. Next they exhale the gas, and spark it by channelling eletricity.

    I then want to say the dragons deposit aluminum on the bones, both for strength and for conductivity. Static electric is generated by the dragon grinding its teeth. The top teeth contain aluminum and thus are able to connect with the rest of the aluminum in the body, and the friction between the positively charged aluminum of the top teeth and the negatively charged bone of the lower teeth creates static electric which produces a small spark.

    How much of this is possible? I know it is possible to deposit the aluminum on the bones and teeth but would that help the dragon conduct electric? Would bone and aluminum actually create static electric? Close up the teeth are not smooth, they are all covering in tiny bumps.

    Also, i have a single dragon which produces loads of tiny sparks from it's body. I was looking at the eletric eel and other things, would i be able to say the dragon is able to posivitly charge the ions on it's skin so is constantly losing eletrons in a shower of sparks?




    ^^ thank you lovely people

    ----edit----

    I will also be making a real life model of a dragon that breathes fire, so i am looking for a real life method of breathing fire.


    Last edited by Calluna28; August 23rd, 2013 at 09:48 AM.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    I think static electricity has to be generated by rubbing insulators (so the charge can be built up without being dissipated). You might want to look at how things like the Wimshurst machine or van der Graaf generator work.
    Wimshurst machine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Electrostatic generator - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I think it might be easier to go with the sort of electric generation used by eels/fish. I don't know if such a thing can generate a spark in reality, but as this is fiction maybe that doesn't matter too much.

    The other thing you could consider is catalysis. So, for example:
    Finely divided platinum and some other metals will cause a mixture of Hydrogen and oxygen to explode at ordinary temperatures. If a jet of Hydrogen in air impinges on platinum black the metal surface gets hot enough to ignite the gases
    Hydrogen CAS#: 1333-74-0

    I don't know if this could be used to ignite acetone (but again, this is fiction so ...). Maybe one of the chemists would know. Perhaps if there was a small amount of hydrogen present?

    The next problem would be: how would they get a catalyst in suitable form. It seems that many metals used as catalysts are relatively unreactive so metabolising them may be a problem. It could be that the baby dragons have to find a suitable lump of naturally occurring (in your world) platinum sponge, which they ingest and it gets caught in the right place in their anatomy. There are existing examples of this. A simple one is that that some birds will swallow stones to help break up the food they eat.


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    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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    Thank you so much, that is very helpful

    I like the platinum idea a lot, this would explain why historical dragons are attracted to shiny objects, and why mothers will fill their nests with treasure. Would it be possible to extract the hydrogen from air in the body, then mix it with air in a carefully insulated gland, then have the teeth lined with platinum to ignite it on exhalation? Also being heavier than air would be a fun fact to play with.

    I had done a lot of reading into acetone and read that when combined at the right concentration (i think it was 2.8%-12%) with air it becomes highly volatile and can explode/combust from the smallest spark, is that right?

    The problem i have with the dragon that is like an electric eel is that the method used by the eel a. does not work unless under water as the current dissipates in the water and thus doesn't shock the eel, and b. an electric current runs over/through the skin as opposed to actual sparks, any suggestions for getting round this? Would it be possible to have the skin made of a highly insulated material and have friction caused by flapping the wings at a high speed (it flies a bit like a dragonfly)? Would this produce sparks and electrify any predator who tried to eat it?

    I know it seems a bit of a tall order but i was hoping to make it as realistic as possible, the book is basically claiming that dragons have just been discovered and then explaining how it all works.
    Last edited by Calluna28; August 23rd, 2013 at 05:04 AM. Reason: Mis-spelling
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    Depends on the rest of the anatomy of your dragons, but remember sea otters have a pouch for their food and rock cracking process. Your dragons could have some sort of nifty storage for one needed piece of the fire making.

    It's a small problem for humans but some of us have a little (very little) pouch/recess type thing in the throat. It does little more than contribute to bad breath in humans because bits of food stay there, but you might cook up something useful along those lines for a dragon.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    I have already designed the dragons and written most of the book but i think i have something a bit like that. They have a special fire breathing gland. This is insulated so they are able to control the mixing of the chemicals, and then exhale and use some mechanism to ignite. I need the ignition mechanism to be in the mouth, and was thinking a spark would be a good way of doing this, i am not sure, what do you think?
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    I suppose you have to have some realistic (as fiction goes) way of igniting that doesn't involve setting the whole mouth/head on fire. Some fire-starting technique along the line of a sneeze - but controlled/ emitted from the mouth - would do it.

    I'm trying to think of how fire-eating works as a circus trick, but can't make it "go" for your dragons. I suppose you could have special teeth or a beak style of other hard body part at the front of the mouth to work much the same way as striking a match.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    Make the teeth out of pizoelectric quartz.
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    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    Make the teeth out of pizoelectric quartz.
    Sir AlexG, would you be so kind as to explain why?

    Ist more flammable?
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    When you apply pressure to a pizoelectric crystal, you get an electric spark. That's what you need to ignite your gases. Your dragon would simply have to bite down and exhale at the same time. Ignition would take place in the outer mouth, thus avoiding the incineration of the dragon's innards.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    Make the teeth out of pizoelectric quartz.
    Sir AlexG, would you be so kind as to explain why?

    Ist more flammable?
    Babe, The old phonograph "needles" you might remember which "rode" the grooves of the record used a Piezoelectric Crystal which squeezed it's way between the undulating grooves, producing the electrical signal corresponding to the recorded music. No spark, though. joc
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    Calibri butane lighters use a pizoelectric quartz crystal to ignite the flame. Look at the tip when you press the trigger and you clearly see the electric spark.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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    Why don't you just look up how electric eels do it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    Make the teeth out of pizoelectric quartz.
    Sir AlexG, would you be so kind as to explain why?

    Ist more flammable?
    Babe, The old phonograph "needles" you might remember which "rode" the grooves of the record used a Piezoelectric Crystal which squeezed it's way between the undulating grooves, producing the electrical signal corresponding to the recorded music. No spark, though. joc
    Mahlo and yes!!

    Thanks for lay terms!
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    When you apply pressure to a pizoelectric crystal, you get an electric spark. That's what you need to ignite your gases. Your dragon would simply have to bite down and exhale at the same time. Ignition would take place in the outer mouth, thus avoiding the incineration of the dragon's innards.
    Thank you, kind sir, but *laughing*....Joc did a better job.....I do remember those phonographs, we actually bought and restored one...but my vinyl...well ...I haven't played it in years!
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  16. #15  
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    The "piezoelectric effect" is a condition occurring when quartz crystal is stressed (or squeezed) and a voltage appears across the layers of the crystal. The voltage may be quite small, as in the case of phonograph needle cartridges, or quite high, enough to create a spark, or arc through the air. jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    The "piezoelectric effect" is a condition occurring when quartz crystal is stressed (or squeezed) and a voltage appears across the layers of the crystal. The voltage may be quite small, as in the case of phonograph needle cartridges, or quite high, enough to create a spark, or arc through the air. jocular
    can I use that on my husband for what we call in Hawai'i "HOT Monkey S**"?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    The "piezoelectric effect" is a condition occurring when quartz crystal is stressed (or squeezed) and a voltage appears across the layers of the crystal. The voltage may be quite small, as in the case of phonograph needle cartridges, or quite high, enough to create a spark, or arc through the air. jocular
    can I use that on my husband for what we call in Hawai'i "HOT Monkey S**"?
    Sure! In fact, we might be able to make and market a device which, when placed on husbands' chairs, zaps a charge when stressed by sitting upon them. It might prove to be quite stimulating! But, what would we call the dang thing? joc
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    The "piezoelectric effect" is a condition occurring when quartz crystal is stressed (or squeezed) and a voltage appears across the layers of the crystal. The voltage may be quite small, as in the case of phonograph needle cartridges, or quite high, enough to create a spark, or arc through the air. jocular
    can I use that on my husband for what we call in Hawai'i "HOT Monkey S**"?
    Sure! In fact, we might be able to make and market a device which, when placed on husbands' chairs, zaps a charge when stressed by sitting upon them. It might prove to be quite stimulating! But, what would we call the dang thing? joc
    A remote control inhibitor!! *chuckle*
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    The "piezoelectric effect" is a condition occurring when quartz crystal is stressed (or squeezed) and a voltage appears across the layers of the crystal. The voltage may be quite small, as in the case of phonograph needle cartridges, or quite high, enough to create a spark, or arc through the air. jocular
    Thank you so much for this one. Think i will go with quartz crystal teeth as that will also look very cool. How would you be able to ensure the voltage was hight enough to create a spark? Would it just be the case of being larger? xx
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    How would you be able to ensure the voltage was hight enough to create a spark?
    You don't have to. Just state it. Evolution would eliminate any dragon who couldn't produce a spark.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by pyoko View Post
    Why don't you just look up how electric eels do it?
    It isn't viable, i have looked but it seems it only works as it is under water, plus it seems to be a very complex biological system, which would be fairly difficult to recreate for a working model.




    After everything you have all said, I have been looking at Arsine, as the dragon would be able to extract hydrogen from the air to mix with arsenic to produce it. This would be far more flammable than an acetone mixture although would require arsenic. I have read it naturally occurs in minerals, sea life and volcanoes, is this correct? If so would it techincally be possible to gain large amounts from these sources? Could it chomp up mineral rocks with it's quartz teeth?




    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    Make the teeth out of pizoelectric quartz.
    With quartz teeth, how would it get them? Would it need to eat actual quartz and make them into teeth or could it produce it's own using silicon? That would be easier but i would need some vague explaination of how, it the teeth were formed in the gum, could pressure then be applied to turn the silicon and oxygen into quartz in that shape?

    Would this also mean the teeth would produce arcs when the dragon bit things?



    Also would a differet dragon be able to produce sparks by flapping highly insulated wing against a highly insulated back? Would that produce little arcs? Also would this enable to dragon to eletrify anything that tried to eat it?



    thank you for all the help so far, this is really showing me lots of other ways of doing it
    Last edited by Calluna28; August 26th, 2013 at 09:20 AM.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    How would you be able to ensure the voltage was hight enough to create a spark?
    You don't have to. Just state it. Evolution would eliminate any dragon who couldn't produce a spark.
    *clapping* very quick on the with there Mr. AlexG!
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