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Author Topic: Steam Cane Technical issues  (Read 2677 times)
Dr. Zedrich Heretic
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« on: January 26, 2009, 01:03:16 am »

So I’ve been conscripted into helping a fiend make a “Steam Cane”

It’s function, to boil water for Tea and other hot beverages.  The problem, how to generate heat within the cane.  What we’ve worked out so far is that electric heating elements would be the best place to start.

The problem, how to build it…

What materials would be best to make a heating element for inside the cane?  How much power is necessary for the heating element?  I could look this stuff up myself but I figured it would be easer to ask around here first.
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H. MacHinery
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2009, 01:37:24 am »

if you mean something that will really heat water, you've got a tall order - it takes a powerful battery to drive electro-resistive heating.
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HAC
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2009, 01:38:38 am »

From an engineering standpoint ...Here's what you would  do.. Figure out how much water you want to boil (i.e the volume). Then figure out how much that water would weigh (easy in metric, 1CC of water weighs 1 gram).  Then figure out how much energy is required to boil that water , (hint, the specific heat of water is 4.186 Joule/gram °C).
Example:
-if you have 100 grams of water at 20 °C, you have to add this much energy:

100 grams * (100 °C - 20 °C) * 4.186 J/g °C = 33488 J = 33.488 kJ

Of course, if you had more or less water, or it was colder or warmer, you would adjust this equation accordingly. Once the water is at 100 °C,  more energy must be added to casue it to boil. This is the heat of vaporization, (for water - 2261 Joules per gram)  So, in the example, once the 100 grams of water is at 100 °C, this amount of energy must be added to boil it:

100 g * 2261 Joules/gram = 226100 Joules = 226.1 kJ

Total energy therefore, in this example is 259.6 kJ to boil 100g of water.. That's about 72 watt-hours, OR 246 BTU

After that its gets a bit more complex, as you need to start figuring out what your heat source will be. You'll need to know the energy densities of common fuels, (that's usually listed in Megajoules per kilogram, so you will need to scale appropriatelyl). That will work for a design in whcih you heat your water by buringin something  (i.e. a traditional firebox and boiler) If you go that route, you now need to figure out a phsyical design, how to handle your fuel, and the waste gases from combustion, although its a lot simpler here than working with a true boiler.).
  If you want to use an electric heating coil, you'll have to figure out the current and voltage that are required for your needed watts.. (that all depends on your choice of heating element, again, its NOT a small number for resistance heating)

Once you know all those things you'll have an idea of what's involved in terms of sizes of your energy sources, (battery, etc), and you can determine if it will fit in a  cane-sized device. After that you only need to consider the physical design ,  how to get water, in and out, heat insulation, etc..

As I said, probably not what you wanted, but a good example of  how to work out stuff like this..

Cheers
Harold
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Propnomicon
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2009, 02:23:03 am »

So I’ve been conscripted into helping a fiend make a “Steam Cane”

It’s function, to boil water for Tea and other hot beverages.  The problem, how to generate heat within the cane.  What we’ve worked out so far is that electric heating elements would be the best place to start.

I would suggest that liquid fuel, specifically alcohol, is far superior and simpler.  Google "cat stove" for directions on how to construct a small, extremely lightweight alcohol stove using very basic materials.
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von Corax
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2009, 05:55:30 am »

Agreed. I would probably start with an alcohol or butane laboratory burner, like one of these:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

These images are all from United Nuclear, who won't sell to anyone outside the US, but if I weren't such a lazy sod I'm sure I could find something this side of the 49th.
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akumabito
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2009, 06:01:34 pm »

This sounds easy enough.. I'll run  a couple of ideas and see if I can come up with something..


*starts photoshop*
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Dr. Zedrich Heretic
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2009, 09:03:30 pm »

I agree that combustion would be a far more efficient method of generating heat, however there is a question about how practical it would be.  Remember that the finished product has to be functional as a walking cane as well as a kettle.  For when you’re craving a spot of tea on the go.  An open flame swinging about right next to your leg might not be considered the safest answer to the problem of boiling water on the go.

HAC:

I appreciate the Engineering Advice, but it seems a rather complicated method.  Looking at the average wattage of a few standard electric kettles would probably give me a better rough estimate and the rest could be resolved with trial and error.  After all, there’s a number of factors that would have to be taken into account, like the conductivity of the outer housing, if it’s not insulated, how much of the heat would bleed out?  It would depend on the materials used.  Rather than overcomplicating things mathematically and trying for exact numbers that my not be as exact because of some unforeseen variable, Building and testing prototypes might be a little easer.
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akumabito
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2009, 09:48:27 pm »

...no need for an exposed flame..

Think of a Zippo lighter, only cylindrical. Or one of those oldfashioned storm lighters like this one. You could fit something along those lines inside a hollow cane. *brain fart* Hmm, for faster boiling times how about one of these or these or these. those should work brilliantly! Just gotta find one of the proper size and shape, really..
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akumabito
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2009, 09:50:13 pm »

I appreciate the Engineering Advice, but it seems a rather complicated method.  Looking at the average wattage of a few standard electric kettles would probably give me a better rough estimate and the rest could be resolved with trial and error.  After all, there’s a number of factors that would have to be taken into account, like the conductivity of the outer housing, if it’s not insulated, how much of the heat would bleed out?  It would depend on the materials used.  Rather than overcomplicating things mathematically and trying for exact numbers that my not be as exact because of some unforeseen variable, Building and testing prototypes might be a little easer.

Most water kettles are in the 1000 to 2000 Watt range. The heating element is often around 4 inches in diameter. It is physically too large to fit inside a cane, and the power consumption is prohibitive unless you don't mid walkign around with an extension cord.. Tongue
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2009, 10:03:27 pm »

I second the lighter idea. You can buy blow torch style lights for about £5.00 on market stalls these days- I reckon 3 in battery should be enough to heat a tea cup full of water in reasonable time. Fuel will need to be topped up fairly often though, and it won't exactly be fast.
The other thing you may need to worry about is insulation; if your heating the water, a lot of that heat is going to escape, so make sure the water is covered while heating (but make sure steam can still escape in case you accidentaly build up pressure) and have the heating vessel heavily insulated.
-Matt

Edit: Just did a quick experiment- I heated 190ml (a teacup-full) of water. It took 2 minutes 45 seconds to boil, over a gas flame I guesstimate is equivilant to 5-6 of those blowtorch lighters. Theoretically (ignoring heat loss, surface are and ambient temperature etc) it will take 5 minutes 30 to heat the same amount of water using the blowtorches. I don't know if the fuel will last that long; perhaps use 6  Smiley.
-Matt
« Last Edit: January 27, 2009, 10:11:27 pm by Matthias Gladstone » Logged

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akumabito
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2009, 10:18:15 pm »

Good experiment!

I'm not sure how a stove would translate to pocket torches in terms of power output. The flame area on a stove is much bigger, which means a lot of heat is wasted along the sides. Those torches also get incredibly hot - much hotter than an ordinary stove. Almost twice as hot actually, I believe. also, since it will be fairly enclosed inside the cane, it will concentrate the heat on a much smaller surface. If the container holding the water is made of copper, i wouldn't be surprised if you could manage to boil it in under 2 minutes using a single one of these pocket torches.
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Propnomicon
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2009, 10:31:43 pm »

I agree that combustion would be a far more efficient method of generating heat, however there is a question about how practical it would be.  Remember that the finished product has to be functional as a walking cane as well as a kettle.  For when you’re craving a spot of tea on the go.  An open flame swinging about right next to your leg might not be considered the safest answer to the problem of boiling water on the go.

Swipe a bit of the catalytic screen from a liquid fueled handwarmer.  Problem solved.
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Alexander Edmund Clough
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2009, 01:01:22 am »

If you didn't mind the cane being a bit chunky, why not make a slim Kelly Kettle / volcano kettle as part of the cane body?

See here for a damn good explanation of how they work

http://www.kellykettle.com/how-it-works
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2009, 01:27:05 am »

Would it be preferable to have the water flowing trough a copper tube coil and heating the coil.  Convection would generate movement within the system.  Think old fashioned teasmaids or coffeee percolators.  You then have something which you can build into a slim cane and have a relatively sealed system.
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Mr Peter Harrow, Esq
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2009, 08:49:03 am »

I wonder if a wind up mechanism used in radio's and mobile phone charges etc might not be a viable alternative source of power? It could be steamed itself, and power other gadgets, when not powering a kettle element.

Further in the dim and distant past I do remember gadgets advertised to plug into the cigarette lighter of a dash board, basically an exposed element you could dangle in a cup to boil water. Adapting something like that may be feasible as the power outputs are designed for the volumes you are looking at.

What I believe you are looking at is more of an mini-urn than a kettle, as you would presumably be brewing the tea in in a vessel with a heat source rather heating water separately. Urns do not come boil in the same fashion as kettles, so the power demands over time should be different. I would suggest you look over the technical specifications for the traditional type tea urn.

On this basis I would build a copper urn as the head of the cane, with an insulated handle ticking out at the top, perhaps with the power jack for the winder mechanism to connect. The urn would connect to a cane via a standard hollow screw connector (garden hose connectors are easily adaptable), which could be hollow to contain glass vials for milk/lemon and sugar lumps. Finally a collapsible metal cup, which can be attached to the handle by a simple clip, for ease of removal. You should have something which looks like a cane as well as functions as a tea urn.

If you can do the metal work the urn would have a secure screw on top, to pour water in and a small tap for egress of the tea. This will minimise spillage so one could plug the urn in to use stored power from the charher on ones belt or wrist whilst  walking. Because an urn should heat more slowly burn risk would also be minimised, although gentleman should be wearing gloves in any event. You might be able to get 2 or 3 small cups of tea.

It is up to you gentlemen to follow this design, it will take me some time to update my metal working skills to build the urn, unless I see something I can readily adapt.

I would however suggest you chaps look at the thread "walking sticks with secrets"

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