NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ930462
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jul
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 2
ISSN: ISSN-0031-9120
How Hot Can a Fire Piston Get?
Scott-Brown, J. A.; Cunningham, O. A.; Goad, B. C.
Physics Education, v45 n4 p328-329 Jul 2010
The fire piston is just a sealed syringe containing a small amount of tinder. When the plunger is forced downwards, the air inside is compressed and heats up, setting fire to the tinder. It has been used as a convenient and portable way of starting fires "over a wide area from northern Burma and Siam through the Malay Peninsula and the Malayan Archipelago to its eastern limits in the islands of Luzon and Mindanao in the Philippines," although there is uncertainty about whether it was invented there or introduced from Europe. In the 19th century the fire piston became popular in Europe as a scientific toy. As a practical device for starting fires it was probably never as commonly used as the tinderbox and was rendered largely obsolete by the development of friction matches, but it is still sold by bushcraft/survival websites. The diesel engine works on the same principle: using compression to heat fuel vapour and ignite it without the need for a spark. In this article, the authors calculate how hot a fire piston can get.
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A