Emily Lam

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pre-project Ramble

It's July. That means lantern time! So I've been thinking about how I'm going to make this floating lantern. Logically it seems simple. Hot air rises and if you can contain that hot air in the lantern, the lantern will rise. I've googled and talked to my mother about the materials I could use. And this is what I've come up with.

For the balloon part I'm thinking of fireproofing tissue paper. Keep it light. That should work, right?

For the ring, my mom has suggested bamboo but where's one to find bamboo. I'm actually thinking of using copper wires. Just strip the plastic off and it shouldn't melt. And copper wires, if you twirl a few together, are malleable and light. My only concern is that it won't keep it's shape. If it doesn't work then I will need to go find bamboo. Then again, who says it has to be circular. It could be a polygon. That way I could use the bamboo sticks commonly used for kabobs. 

I will definitely be using copper wires to tie the fuel into place though. And maybe when the fuel burns at the copper wire intersection, it will give my lantern a green tint. How cool would that be!

The burning fuel is where I'm running into problems. I'm trying to think of something that is light, will burn slow but with large flames and create lots of heat. I was thinking paper but that burns way too fast. Maybe paper saturated in alcohol. But then paper isnt really absorbant. Maybe cloth soaked in oil (my mom suggests cooking oil) but that I'm thinking is too heavy. I'm also thinking a cotton ball, since it's way more absorbent then paper, saturated in rubbing alcohol. I've googled around and some have used paraffin wax. But that's slightly on the heavy side. I will try a couple of things out. 

And then there is the string I want to tie to the lantern to keep it from flying away. I need it to not add to much weight though. Maybe a regular piece of string fireproofed. Or again copper wire. Or steel fishing string or something.

Hmm, I'm going to take this project slowly and in steps. First figure out the fuel, then the ring part, next the actual lantern, then how to mount the fuel, and finally the string to keep it from flying away. I'll try to document everything as best as I can. A couple steps of the engineering design process complete!

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