Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jon Anderson Ping Pong Launcher

All this week, Jon has tried to show us one of his favorite demonstrations, however he has been missing some necessary materials.  Today he was finally able to get it to work.  Here's a list of what you need :
  • 1.5" PVC pipe (Jon uses an 8 ft pipe, but shorter is ok) (clear tube if you can afford it)
  • 1/2" drill bit (to make a hole drilled about 2" from one end of the PVC pipe)
  • 3/8" hose barb (something like this, may need different size depending on vacuum tubing)
  • Teflon tape (wrapped around barb before it is screwed into 1/2" opening in pipe)
  • 40 mm Competition Ping Pong Ball (as we saw, the basic/cheap ones won't work)
  • 3" 3M 375 clear packing tape
  • Jon also mentioned you may need a coupler on each end for added surface area
  • Soda can (with a book on top for added inertia)

Here is the result of trial 1:

 Here is the result of Trial 2:

The yellow you see is the ping pong ball that broke through the front side of the can.  As I mentioned, Jon's 8' howitzer cannon can shoot through 2 cans.  He said he saw that the one made at U of Minnesota can go through 3.  Let the carnage begin!


  1. this demo is aweomse, and it's a great way to get a very rough lower bound on the speed of air molecules—they have to be moving faster than the ping pong ball when it leaves the cannon.

  2. Someone suggested to me that I replace the packing tape with mylar held in place with a coupler. You can use either scraps for old mylar balloons or I believe he used potato chip bags. This change made a huge difference! We captured a high-speed video of it in action:

  3. Geoff,
    Thanks for the info to make the launcher even better!