Sparkler rockets?

I remember in my uni days people buying packs of sparklers, bundling them together and setting them off in one go.  A single sparkler may last for 30 seconds or more, but with all the heat that is generated when bunched together the whole lot goes up in only a couple of seconds.  The resulting effect is an impressive but very short-lived fountain.  Not only is a lot of heat and light produced, but the combustion also results in an awful lot of gas.  This got me wondering: a whole lot of gas in a short time… was this enough to make a cheap and cheerful rocket?

The first video shows the basic proof of concept.  The questions I had were:

  • when confined how much longer would the bunch burn for?
  • would plastic packing tape work or would it just burn through?
  • would the bundle move at all?
  • or would the whole lot just blow up?

All in all this looked quite promising, especially the slow motion replay which shows plenty of gas production.  So I moved to the next step which was a full trial, fashioning a proper rocket.  I left the bottom entirely open and added some cardboard fins hoping to stop the furious rotation of the first video.

It has to be said that this does indeed make a successful rocket.  Of sorts.

The flight was pretty erratic.  It certainly didn’t have a predictable flight-path – veering off to the side almost instantly.  This combined with the fact that all the tape and cardboard elements sit there on fire after it lands means that my rocket days are over as quickly as they began – it would just be far too easy to set something on fire.

But all in all it’s been a satisfying journey just getting any sort of rocket-like behaviour, and it was certainly spectacular.  And of course, seeing a hunch play out is always rewarding!



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