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Wyatt Wittman

Mrs. Stevens

Life Science

31 January 2018

Does Bottle Shape Affect the Speed of a Coke and Butane Rocket?

My entire science experiment was based off of a rocket that is powered by coke and

butane. After seeing others do it, I started to wonder which bottle was the best to use to launch

these rockets. After doing this experiment myself, I found out which bottle is the most effective

to use when launching these rockets. ​Before doing this experiment, I hypothesis that if I launch a

Coke and butane rocket, then the rocket with the slimmest bottle will take off faster than the

thicker bottle.

What is Butane?

Butane is highly flammable liquid that is used as a lighter fluid. Its chemical formula is

C4H10. Butane looks like a colorless gas with a faint petroleum like odor. The vapors in butane

are heavier than air. Butane’s boiling point is ​30.2°F (-1°C). Butane is also shipped as a liquefied

gas under vapor pressure (Butane).

How Does the Butane Rocket Work?

The carbon dioxide in the Coke can escape if the partial pressure of the CO2 is too low

next to the liquid. When a large amount of butane is added to the Coke bottle, it starts to form a

separate liquid from the Coke in the bottle. In other words it doesn’t mix. This causes water ice

to form, which acts as an insulator (Today). The butane mixes with the carbon dioxide in the

Coke and creates a chemical reaction when turned upside down. This chemical reaction is so
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strong it is able to push the bottle off the ground. The bottle then flies through the air. Speed is

directly proportional to the distance when time a variable: ​v​ ∝ ​s​ (​t​ constant). In other words,

divide the distance it is traveling by the time it takes to travel (How).

What is Velocity and How is it Measured?

Velocity is the rate of change of the displacement with time. As a vector it must be stated

with both magnitude and direction. Average velocity is measured over a non-zero time interval

and is is shown by the symbol ​v​ave​ or v​ ̅ (overline). An object's constant speed approaches the

magnitude of its average velocity as the time interval approaches zero. The instantaneous speed

of an object is the amount of its instantaneous velocity (Speed).

Does the Angle the Rocket is Launched at Affect the Speed/Velocity?

There are the two constants of a projectile's motion - horizontal, vertical motion. If

merely dropped from rest in the presence of gravity, the bottle rocket would accelerate

downward, gaining speed at a rate of 9.8 m/s every second. There must be a horizontal force to

causes a horizontal acceleration. The vertical force acts perpendicular to the horizontal motion

and will not affect it because perpendicular components of motion work independent of each

other. Thus, the projectile travels with a constant horizontal velocity and a downward vertical

acceleration. Because of this, the bottle will be affected by the angle it is launched at

(Characteristics).

What Factors can Affect a Projectile?

In most cases on Earth, a projectile will be a subject to both forces, but there may be

cases when an artificial vacuum has been created, which means the projectile will only be

subjected to the force of gravity. As every second passes, the speed of a falling projectile is
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increasing by 32 ft/sec (9.8 m). In outer space, gravity, whether from Earth or another body, is

likely to be a factor, where as air resistance will not be. The figure of 32 ft (9.8 m) per second

squared applies at sea level, but since the value of ​g ​changes little with altitude—it only

decreases by 5% at a height of 10 mi (16 km)—it is safe to use this number. Hence a cannonball

and a feather, dropped into a vacuum at the same moment, would fall at exactly the same rate

and hit bottom at the same time. Altitude also affects a projectile’s falling rate (PROJECTILE).

How Do You Accurately Measure the Speed of a Projectile?

A convenient tool to have would be a chronograph. ​Like most electronic chronographs,

this one works through optical detection of the passage of the projectile over two points

separated by a known distance, D (in this case, the five inches separating phototransistors Q1 and

Q2). Velocity measurement begins with the passage of the projectile over Q1. The resulting

partial occlusion of Q1's view generates a negative pulse at A1's non-inverting input of about 500

µV for every 1% of light blocked. A1 and A4 boost and invert by 70 dB to produce a reset (start)

pulse to the free-running 14-bit ripple counter U3. Following the projectile's passage, U3

resumes counting from zero, tallying the time of flight (T) with 250-ns resolution.

I hypothesized that if I launch a Coke and butane rocket, then the rocket with the

slimmest bottle will take off faster than the thicker bottle. ​My experiment went as planned

without any rockets failing to launch. I found that my hypothesis was correct and that the

slimmest bottle would launch faster and the thicker bottle. The slim bottle’s slowest launch was

54 mph and its fastest was 66 mph. The thicker bottle’s slowest launch was 50 mph and its

fastest launch was 61 mph. When I launch a coke and butane rocket, the slimmer bottle will
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launch faster than the thicker bottle.


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Works Cited

"BUTANE." National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2017.

“Characteristics of a Projectile's Trajectory.” The Physics Classroom,

www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/vectors/u3l2b.cfm​.

Elert, Glenn. "Speed & Velocity." Speed & Velocity – The Physics Hypertextbook. N.p., n.d.

Web. 25 Oct. 2017.

Harris, Zachary. “How to Make A Rocket Out of Coke Bottle: Just Add Butane.” First We Feast,

First We Feast, 20 Oct. 2016,

firstwefeast.com/eat/2015/09/how-to-make-a-rocket-out-of-coke-bottle-just-add-butane.

High-Flying Rocket.” BroBible, 7 Sept. 2015,

brobible.com/life/article/science-experiment-butane-and-coke-rocket/.

“PROJECTILE MOTION.” Projectile Motion,

www.scienceclarified.com/everyday/Real-Life-Chemistry-Vol-3/Projectile-Motion.html​.

W. Stephen Woodward | Oct 28, 2001. "Measure Projectile Velocity Optically With An

Ohmmeter." Electronic Design. N.p., 01 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2017.