The Toroidal Vortex

Ellen Lewis, Educational Innovationsby: Ellen Lewis

A Toroidal Vortex is whirling air or liquid in the shape of a doughnut.  Vortices are created in nature by many things including dolphins, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and whirlpools.  They can be created around the wings of an airplane, in the wake of a boat, or in a rocket blast.  Now you can make Toroidal Vortices in your classroom with the Zero Blaster and the Air Zooka.  Use these products to discuss friction, pressure, the Bernoulli Effect, or the Coanda Effect.

Activity 1: A Simple Toroidal Vortex

Create a simple Toroidal Vortex with a droplet of food coloring and a tall glass of water.  Start by holding the dropper about 3 cm above the water’s surface.  Squeeze a single drop of food coloring straight down into the glass.  You will be amazed to see how the friction between the water and the food coloring will create the doughnut shaped rings!

See what happens when you drop the food coloring from different heights above the surface of the water.  How does this affect the size of the ring formed or the speed of the ring as it moves through the water?

Torodial Vortex

When the drop of food coloring moves through the water, there is friction between the food coloring and the water.

Toroidal Vortex

The sides of the food coloring droplet get pushed upward as the food coloring continues to fall.

Toroidal Vortex

This causes material from the bottom of the droplet to flow to the top, which results in a hole in the middle.  A doughnut or Toroidal Vortex is formed.

Toroidal Vortex

This last figure shows a cross sectional picture of the Toroidal Vortex as it moves down through the water.

Activity 2: Fog Rings

Use the Zero Blaster to create Toroidal Vortices with fog fluid.

  1. Turn the Zero Blaster on, this will power the heating element needed to create the fog. The heating element vaporizes the glycerin, which condenses in the air.
  2. Push the pump button to fill the fog chamber with fog.
  3. Pull the firing lever back.  Releasing the firing lever will allow the plunger to strike the diaphragm and produce a fast moving pulse of air.  Once the fog passes through the opening of the chamber, the outside stationary air slows down the airflow of the fog, similar to how the water slowed down the droplet in Activity 1.
  4. What happens when you move the launcher forward while you launch the fog rings? What happens when you move the launcher sideways or up and down while you launch the fog rings? What happens to the fog rings if you try to fan them?

Air Pressure Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations Blog

Activity 3: Blow ‘Em Away

1. Grip the handle on the Air Zooka and aim at a target.

2. Grip the elastic air launcher with the other hand. Fully extend your arm and pull straight back (do not over pull).

3. Release the elastic air launcher to launch a powerful yet harmless ball of air!

4. Feel the Toroidal Vortices created by the Air Zooka!

Use the Air Zooka to blow out the birthday candles on your next birthday cake!

Use the Air Zooka instead of a softball to knock down Styrofoam cups in the carnival classic game with the cups stacked in a pyramid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.