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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Turn Your Vacuum Cleaner into a Bazooka

vacuum powered bazooka
The processes to make a vacuum cleaner bazooka. Images compiled from Planet SciCast

Imagine my delight at discovering an absolutely epic experiment to turn your household vacuum cleaner into a bazooka. Word. Yay kids, this is where science helps you to shoot your friends in the gonads.

What You Will Need

Vacuum cleaner, Cardboard tubes (of similar size to vacuum tube), some duct tape, bubble wrap and play-dough or dowel.

things to make bazooka
Images compiled from 1, 2, 3 and own photo


Also see first Image for the following steps.

1. First you will need to create the T, which is the attachment to the vacuum tube and the horizontal pipe, essential for firing your projectile. To do this, cut about ten centimeters off your cardboard tube and shape the short tube nicely so that it will hug the horizontal one.

2. Cut a hole or a series of holes 5cm away from the end and place the smaller piece of tube directly over them. You will then need to seal the T using duct tape. Make sure no air escapes – otherwise - epic fail.

3. Then attach the vacuum hose to the short tube, again using duct tape and ensuring that no air escapes.

4. Now onto the projectile. Depending on how much of a psycho you are, you can either make it out of a dowel or bubble wrap. There are two different methods here:


If you are using a dowel, make sure that it fits in snuggly: too small and it won’t fly out and too large will result in friction. If it is too large you may have to sand it, but then you’re really trying too hard.

Bubble wrap

With the bubble wrap size isn’t too much of a problem, as you can basically create it as large as you like. To do so, roll a sausage of play-dough and then carefully wrap the bubble wrap cylindrically around it. To keep it in place, tape together.

5. Now for the fun part:
i. Turn on the vacuum cleaner
ii. Hold a piece of paper over the front end.
iii. Release a projectile from the back
iv. The projectile flies out at mega speed in a very satisfying way. It can reach between 30-40 feet.

You can see a video here of the bazoka in action, or below is a video of a much more powerful vacuum-powered bazooka being tested in Japan:

So, what’s the science behind this?

The bazooka works very much like a straw. Depending on how powerful your vacuum cleaner is, it can suck out between 10-20% of the air inside the tube, which although doesn’t sound like much, creates a huge difference between the high pressure of the air outside and the low air pressure inside. The force is strong enough for the projectile to move rapidly down the tube and knock the card off.

Ok, but how is this related to the environment?

The experiment illustrates low pressure incredibly well, which can be a deadly element in weather systems. Low pressure systems generally bring rain, cyclones or hurricanes. Perhaps the best analogy would be that like the vacuum powered bazooka, tornadoes suck up debris in much the same way that the vacuum bazooka fires projectiles.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4,