Experiments

Jet Engine/Vacuum Cleaner

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Breaking Glass"
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: According to the MythBusters research department, at least three people have learned the hard way that high-powered vacuums and explosive liquids don't mix well. In one reported case from the '90s, a guy sucked up gasoline in his Shop-Vac while cleaning his boat's fuel tank. A few minutes later, the gasoline fumes supposedly ignited, shot through the other end of the vacuum cleaner and sent the machine skyward like a jet engine.

But when MythBusters Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Scottie Chapman sucked up some gasoline with a Shop-Vac, it didn't take off, thanks to a built-in safety feature that blocks the air from touching the motor and possibly igniting.

To get around that feature, Tory rejiggered the Shop-Vac engine with a flame holder, combustion ring and igniter. With those new pieces, the motor would theoretically suck in air, which would then be compressed, mixed with fuel in the tank and combust.

But, even upon successful ignition, Tory's revamped vacuum didn't go far. Slow-motion footage showed slight thrust from the flames bursting through the end of the Shop-Vac, but not enough to meet jet engine criteria. Since vacuums clean with low-pressure suction and jet engines soar with high-pressure, high-powered combustion, the two conflicting principles added up to a busted myth.

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