Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Extremely Crushed

I'll be honest: I'm addicted to the videos on YouTube that feature some amateur scientist trying to destroy a hockey puck with some experiment. I've watched people try to destroy a puck using a red-hot ball of nickel, and I've seen another person document what freezing a puck in liquid nitrogen does. There's something about watching a mad scientist that just gets the better of me, and I enjoy the moment where the puck wins out in the experiment. Yay for vulcanized rubber! Today, though, there won't be a chemical reaction to observe in any way as the power of physics comes to the forefront. Will pressure win out over a common hockey puck?

A hydraulic press is a bit of an engineering feat. It uses the hydraulic equivalent of of a mechanical lever - physicists love simple machines - and works effectively on compressing items by keeping pressure constant throughout the closed system. The system itself is based on Pascal's law that states, "Pressure on a confined fluid is transmitted undiminished and acts with equal force on equal areas and at 90 degrees to the container wall." The larger piston's movements in the lever will determine the amount of pressure applied by the smaller piston since the Law of Conservation of Energy must be upheld.

Invented by Joseph Bramah of England in 1795, the basic design of the hydraulic press hasn't changed much aside from adding better pistons for bigger jobs. The hydraulic press was the instrument of death for the Terminator in the 1984 film in pop culture, it's used to make coins, and it's now being used on a number of common items in YouTube videos to see how they react to extreme compression.

Here is the hockey puck's reaction to the hydraulic press.
Needless to say, the hockey puck has a limit on the amount of compression it can take. It was pretty amazing to see the puck look more like an elastic band than hardened rubber, but that's why science is cool. There aren't many things, to be honest, that can survive being in a hydraulic press, so I'm not surprised that the puck didn't last. I was surprised, though, to see it explode, but its hardened shape simply couldn't handle the pressure. Something had to give.

More science experiments like this are appreciated, so don't go into hiding, amateur scientists! A hockey puck takes a lot of abuse, but seeing what it can withstand in the science community makes for excellent entertainment!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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