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The Plastic Hydrogen Bomb

The Plastic Hydrogen Bomb

It sounds like the perfect terrorist weapon, but it is a toy that teaches the principles of electrochemistry. It is also a high-tech squirt gun. The Plastic Hydrogen Bomb uses electricity to break apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Then it uses a spark of electricity to explosively recombine the gases into high pressure steam, which propels a stream of water high into the air.
The construction is a little more difficult than the other toys in this book, but the skills learned by building this toy can be put to good use building many other devices and works of art.

Scrounging for bomb making materials.

The bomb is made from these materials:

Polyester resin and catalyst. This can be found at hobby stores and hardware stores.

Two carbon rods from cheap batteries (or large gold plated connectors)

A Piezo-electric ignitor from a Scripto electronic lighter

A 9 volt battery clip

Paraffin (from a cheap white candle)

Insulated copper wire (about 20 to 22 guage)

Solder

The first few attempts at constructing the bomb.

The first bomb I built was done entirely with the “lost wax casting” method used by artists, sculptors, and jewelers.

In the lost wax method, a model of the finished object is made of wax, then plaster is poured over the wax and allowed to harden. Finally, the wax is melted out of the hardened plaster, and the hollow is filled with molten metal, which cools into the same shape as the original wax model. The plaster is broken away, and the finished piece of art or jewelry is cleaned and polished.

With the bomb, we eliminate all of the steps after the wax has been melted out of the mold, since our objective is to build a hollow in the plastic into which the carbon rods and spark gap protrude.

Note that the spark gap at the top of the bomb is made out of carbon rods. Later versions use a simpler spark gap made of copper wire.

You can see the red wire from the battery clip going to the carbon rod at the bottom of the hemispherical chamber. You can also see a rectangular tube curving up from the bottom of the chamber and exiting out the top of the device. This tube was formed from a thin sheet of wax, and is there to let the water in and out of the chamber. There is another tube like it on the other side. The blue at the bottom is a pile of plastic beads that the wax model was sitting on when the liquid plastic was poured over it.

The problem with the lost wax version is that you can’t see the inner workings very well. My next attempt used a clear plastic box and some clear plastic tubing. It exploded in my face on the first attempt to use it. The remains are shown below.

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