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Thread: Gunpowder Engine

  1. #1 Gunpowder Engine 
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    Ok so the Mythbusters had a marathon today... they tried making an engine run on gunpowder and failed miserably.

    that got me thinking. here's my idea (patent pending if it turns out to be a good one):

    gunpowder is explosive energy. channeling it into a piston, i would think, would cause losses. what if we made a metal ball, drilled holes in the radial direction in random places all around it, plopped some gunpowder into the middle, lined the outlets of the holes with tiny little turbines, connected tiny little electric generators to each turbine, and combined all the energy release electrically.

    The key would be allowing energy to escape radially outward, as it naturally does, rather than channeling it. this contraption would also decrease the need for timing: you just keep droppin' little packets of gunpowder in at a relatively constant rate, or have the engine feed itself. no need for a liquid-delivery method or any such mumbo jumbo.

    thoughts?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Ph.D. Leszek Luchowski's Avatar
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    Explosion gases don't mind being channeled in one direction; gun barrels do it all the time. So you don't need lots of holes in random directions.

    Gunpowder has less energy per kilogram than most (if not all) fuels, mostly because fuels use air to burn whereas gunpowder contains within itself all the chemistry it needs to explode. AFAIK a kilogram of petrol contains as much energy as approx. five kilograms of gunpowder.

    Delivering small packets of gunpowder repeatedly to an explosion chamber while it works would certainly be more complicated than feeding a liquid or gaseous fuel to an engine. You need to make sure the gunpowder does not go off before getting there, or that fire does not propagate upstream to wherever your supply of gunpowder is.

    IMHO the bottom line is it's feasible, but only worth the effort if you need an engine that works with no air.

    I suppose a variant of your idea has been used: an explosive charge (not necessarily gunpowder) in a chamber connected to a tube with a small turbine, to provide electric power for a short time in some extreme conditions. I can only imagine some rather far-fetched applications: powering an emergency radio beacon, or the electronics of a smart bomb in flight, or some particular short stage of a space mission...


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    Leszek. Pronounced [LEH-sheck]. The wondering Slav.
    History teaches us that we don't learn from history.
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  4. #3 Re: Gunpowder Engine 
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConiunctoErgoSum
    what if we made a metal ball, drilled holes in the radial direction in random places all around it, plopped some gunpowder into the middle, lined the outlets of the holes with tiny little turbines, connected tiny little electric generators to each turbine, and combined all the energy release electrically.
    The only problem is how to continue this?
    You need to refill the ball, how?

    And, I don't think it will be economical. A real problem
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  5. #4  
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    Ok I have something to say about gunpowder engine...

    First of all blackpowder is out... anyone shooting blackpowder or even uses fireworks knows that when blackpowder burns, it leaves behind a lot of solids as well as corrosive residue... meaning after a few cycles the fouling will jam just about any moving parts if it's tight fitting like an engine should be. Smokeless is a better choice.

    Also if you really think about it, a machine gun is a gunpowder engine because it relies on the explosion of the powder to drive the piston or gas system in order to cycle the weapon so that it can fire again, so when you fire a machine gun it shoots at a fast rate of fire. The cycling is quite forceful in fact. Some guns (like pistols) simply use the recoil to operate the action but most automatic rifles are gas operated, meaning the gas from the round is diverted to operate the weapon's action.

    So it means if you were to design a reliable gunpowder engine you would need cartridges fed on a belt or other means, like a belt of blank ammunition which feeds into the engine, and the explosion would drive the engine while at the same time operate the actions that would eject the spent casing and load the new casing, and the cycle would repeat. The problem would be massive weight and no real advantage gained compared to gasoline or diesel powered engines, but doing it this way would make the engine reliable, and no worries about the reserve powder exploding due to a stray spark (since metal cartridges wouldn't let sparks through... unless you leave the thing in an oven)
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  6. #5  
    Cooking Something Good MacGyver1968's Avatar
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    Just a waste of good gunpowder, that could be properly used to kill people.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGyver1968 View Post
    Just a waste of good gunpowder, that could be properly used to kill people.
    That's a tad rad dad.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by taiwanluthiers View Post
    Ok I have something to say about gunpowder engine...

    First of all blackpowder is out... anyone shooting blackpowder or even uses fireworks knows that when blackpowder burns, it leaves behind a lot of solids as well as corrosive residue... meaning after a few cycles the fouling will jam just about any moving parts if it's tight fitting like an engine should be. Smokeless is a better choice.
    And yet, gunpowder "engines" have been used to start aircraft engines, both piston and jet, since before WWII. Both the Coffman engine starter and the Breeze cartridge system were used since the 1930s. Even the latest model of the B-52 had cartridge start capability. Once one engine was going, the bleed air could be used to start the others, but all eight engines could be started at once. Lot's a smoke!

    For piston engines, the cordite charge drove a piston, which in turn rammed a worm drive rod. That turned a worm gear, which was connected to the crankshaft.

    For turbine engines, the cordite drive a small turbine at high RPM, gear-reduced to the larger turbine of the engine. Other designs has the gases directly turning an exterior impeller around the outside of the engine.
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  9. #8  
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    In order to feed in the gunpowder, mechanism would have to look like a machine gun, feeding shells to move gunpowder from one location to another. look towards alcohol as a reasonable source of fuel.
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