Comment »Posted on Saturday 18 April 2009 at 5:09 pm by Jacob Aron
In Chemistry, Inventions & Technology

Who would have thought it possible to create a prosciutto-powered thermal lance? Theodore Gray of PopSci.com, that’s who. Despite referring to the meat as “bacon”, his crazy idea actually works.

Prosciutto, more usually found on deli counters and in sandwiches everywhere, takes the place of the traditional iron rod in this power tool with a tasty difference. Gray first created seven tubes of prosciutto by wrapping them around a fiberglass rod and baking them in an oven. These tubes were then wrapped in more meat, and baked again to create the thermal lance’s fuel core. Attach a supply of oxygen and set the thing on fire, and you’re ready to start cutting:

Mmm...crispy
Mmm...crispy

For the veggies amongst you, Gray also created a meat-free version made from a hollowed out cucumber and some breadsticks. It’s not as powerful, but that’s only to be expected – anyone who has ever eaten Quorn will tell you that vegetarian alternatives are never quite as good as the real thing.

Despite being really cool, what’s the point of this little experiment? As Gray says, it demonstrates that the food we eat really does contain quite a lot of energy. Feeding pure oxygen into the mix makes the energy release much faster than normal, but it’s the same calories that add to your waistline as are cutting through pure steel here.

Much derided by those looking to shed a few kilos, calories are simply a way of measuring energy. The official definition of a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. In other words, a Mars Bar which contains 280 calories (according to Mars’ stupidly designed website which won’t let me provide a proper link) provides enough energy to boil nearly three kilograms of water when starting from 0° C. It’s not much of a surprise then that meat can cut metal.


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