Introduction: Make Prince Rupert's Drops - Glass Turned Hand Grenade

Prince Rupert's Drops are one of the most spectacular physics demonstrations I have witnessed. They are formed by a drop of molten glass being cooled rapidly in water in such a way that stress in the core is at a tipping point that requires only a slight imbalance to explode. Even so, the stresses are organized pressing against each other so that if the drops of glass are impacted from the side they can withstand direct hammer blows. It is not until the tail of the drop is fractured that the forces within the glass lose their balance and release in an explosion, fracturing through the glass at a rate three times faster than a .50 BMG sniper rifle bullet.

At 3600 meters per second, the rate that Prince Rupert's Drops fracture surpasses the rate of any other release of kinetic energy that I am aware of. Reactions involving chemical and nuclear energy are typically the only events that are capable of accelerating to this this extreme speed.

The drops are quite simple to make as the above video demonstrates, so long as great care is placed into safety regarding eye protection and care to avoid burns. The glass from these drops can be thrown great distances, so they should be broken within confinement to avoid throwing shards all over the work area.


Pat_Maroney (author)2013-03-30

Showing the stresses with the filter and your monitor was pretty rad.

oppie (author)Pat_Maroney2013-03-31

When I studied engineering back in the '70s, we learned about using polarizers to show up stresses. We used a light source behind a fixed polarizer. The piece under investigation was placed between the fixed polarizer and a moveable polarizer. You would change the front polarizer to get the best color fringes. One project was to understand the function of the flying buttress in the mideival cathedrals. A model of the cathedral was made with acrylic sheets with weights based on calculated loads. The structure was heated to annealing temperatures and then slowly cooled. This locked in the stresses so the pieces could be dismantled and individually inspected in the polarizers to see where the stresses concentrated.
If you have a LCD screen on your computer, this is basically a backlight going through one polarizer, the liquid crystal layer (whose orientation changes the polarization with applied voltage) and another polarizer. The emitted light from a white screen is polarized so putting a stressed transparent substance between the screen and an external polarizer will show stress fringes.

dan.foresman (author)oppie2015-04-20

Hey that was a great information burst, thanks for taking the time out to share. Im gonna bake me in some stress!

barrett.linn (author)2014-10-27

I have been practicing making the Prince Ruperts Drop for a few weeks now. The drop part comes out fine, but for the life of me cannot get one to break, or rather explode from clipping the tail. I've sheered that thing down to the bulb of the glass, and yet they're still 100% in tact, ( minus the tail I snapped off like 3 times). I would like to make them as gifts, but is there a reason I cant get them to shatter?



john mantova (author)2013-11-21

it is the breaking off of the tail that triggers the effect not the heating of the glass. The cooler the better.

john mantova (author)2013-11-21

it's the fracturing of the tail that causes the reaction. If I can use that term, not the heating of the glass . In fact the cooler the better.

dlcoates1 (author)2013-04-25

For those wondering, yes, you can make the drops from Boro (Pyrex) however, unlike soft glass or soda glass, they will not explode. Also, it isn't really an explosion. As said in the video, the forces pull the glass inwards. When the tail is snipped, it breaks the high stress layer of the glass, which then allows the glass to crumple inwards at high speeds. Because of all the glass flying inwards on itself, kinetic energy forces the glass to repel outwards after bouncing off itself. It is more of an implosion, than an explosion.

pook06211943 (author)2013-04-08

RDX Explosive velocity 8750 m/s
PETN Explosive velocity 8400 m/s
Trinitrotoluene Explosive velocity 6900 m/s
But these are all chemical explosive's

Self disassembly at 3600 meters per second is fantastic.

dlcoates1 (author)pook062119432013-04-25

Not only is it fantastic, but it is still the fastest non chemical explosion/implosion known to man. Although, magnets are still placeholders of the strongest kinetic explosion/implosion speed.

Dr. dB (author)2013-04-05

How big can they get? Just wondering if a REALLY big one, mounted between two polarizers, driven by sunlight, might be made to "project" those beautiful moiré patterns, something like the way a properly-oriented prism scatters rainbows....

dlcoates1 (author)Dr. dB2013-04-25

If you wish to make art with them, I suggest using boro aka pyrex. It will require more heat, but because of the low stress index, you will not ever have to worry about it exploding if you ever accidentally fracture the tail. Not only this, but you can create larger drops, and they will still have a present visible stress (when used with polarized film), however unlike soft glass or soda glass, the stress is not as strong. The strength of the stress only has an effect on the locations of the colors, and how vivid the colors are. They have no effect on how many colors there are, and colors will still show like that even when the glass is not under stress.

oldmanbeefjerky (author)2013-04-22

i wonder if this can be used for something productive i have in mind hmmmmmmmm

Crimson-Deity (author)2013-04-03

Ha, awesome!

Carlos Marmo (author)2013-04-02

Lágrima Atávica

whiteoakart (author)2013-04-01

Really great. Thanks for the link to the original YouTube video, as well. Fascinating stuff.

xenobiologista (author)2013-04-01

This is so awesome. I saw a picture of a Prince Rupert's Drop in National Geographic's superb cover story on glass back when I was a kid and have wanted to get my hands on one ever since.

ManifoldSky (author)2013-04-01

Um, what on earth are you talking about?!? You are making a rather serious charge here (plagiarism) with absolutely NO substantive evidence. Words like "verbatim" have very particular meanings, and claiming this video is a verbatim copy of the one to which you linked is absurd. Please feel free to post a quote, ANY quote, from the video you linked that is even closely copied in the current one. In fact, the only thing even remotely identical between the two is the subject matter! Claiming that the one is a copy of the other, let alone a verbatim copy, is like saying that Star Wars is a copy of The Foundation Trilogy, because they both discuss galactic empires, or that Ken Burns' "The Civil War" is a copy of "Gone with the Wind"!

kretzlord (author)2013-03-28

i'm picturing a ball made of these with all the tails sticking out, and dropping it to the ground... Awesome!

lukeyj15 (author)kretzlord2013-03-31

Isn't that a frag grenade?

kretzlord (author)lukeyj152013-03-31

I'm not sure what the technical defenition of grenade is, but i'll go with steampunk grenade

thing 2 (author)kretzlord2013-03-29

Make a video of it please! :D

shizumadrive (author)2013-03-31

Very cool video. I never plan on making these but who knows someday I might and Ill have the instructions here.

schaipinyo (author)2013-03-31


NightHawkInLight (author)2013-03-31

My video was based off of the one found on the channel SmarterEveryDay which I clearly attest to, not the one you've provided the link for.

Rizzy (author)2013-03-31

Could it work as an exploding arrow tip... >:)

lbrewer42 (author)2013-03-31

Glass is amorphous. So cutting the tail cannot disrupt the "crystal" structure. Am I missing something?

Great video - thanks for posting.

Upon further research I seem to have been mistaken. I was speaking about glass as if it were a metal.

bFusion (author)2013-03-31

I found out about these a few weeks ago, here's a great video explaining them!

harlyquin (author)2013-03-29

Out of curiosity, how delicate are these drops? Can they be produced someplace in a shop, and moved to a more audience friendly venue? I mean, are these things more like beer bottles or Christmas ornaments?

They may take some care to move, but it wouldn't be difficult.

SG1Oniell (author)2013-03-29

You said in the video its traveling at 1600m/s, then in the description you changed it to 3600m/s. Over 100% difference there.

Also, for those that don't quite understand, fracture rate is the rate at which the "cracks" propagate throughout the material, not the speed at which those pieces are flying.

codongolev (author)2013-03-29

huh. that thing about heating the drop itself and not the tail is interesting. we tried to make these in chemistry class my junior year of high school, but nobody could get it to work. I bet that was the issue.

Morte_Moya (author)2013-03-28

Well I know what I am going to do with my weekend! Great video.

chewie616 (author)2013-03-28

that is so cool you should do more epic things

donedirtcheap (author)2013-03-28

Excellent! I just learned about these two days ago and I was wondering if I could try it myself. Thanks very much for teaching me!

About This Instructable




Bio: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.
More by NightHawkInLight:How to Make a Produce Slicing Shotgun Barrel for Air CannonsLarge Bore Vacuum CannonFitzroy Storm Glass (18th Century Weather Prediction Device)
Add instructable to: