Re-create Heron's Fountain From Water Bottles





Introduction: Re-create Heron's Fountain From Water Bottles

About: I make things.

I originally made this project for the MAKE blog. It's a fun experiment that led to a lot of discussions about perpetual motion and free energy. My version does not exhibit either of these properties, but you may be able to fool people into thinking it does.

This is a really easy build and would be a perfect project for to build with your kids. Maybe you could even sneak in a lesson on fluid dynamics or perpetual motion?

Step 1: What You Need: Supplies

Here is a lit of the items you need for the build. As you can see, it's not a lot. The total cost of build = $2 (you can scavenge the 3 water bottles)

(3) 16.9 FL OZ Water bottles
(1) 9" length of tubing
(1) 11" length of tubing
(1) 15" length of tubing
Small amount of clay

Note: The tubing is for aquariums and is 3/16" thin wall rigid tubing. Almost any tubing would work, even flexible, but the rigid makes it really easy. I was able to pick some up at a local pet supply store for about $0.50 per foot.

Step 2: What You Need: Tools and Equipment

Here is a list of the tools needed for this instructable. All you need are very basic hand tools, and that's about it!

Drill (hand or electric powered)
5/32" drill bit (slightly smaller than the tubing diameter)

Step 3: Make the Fountains' Reservoir

Cut (1) of the bottles in half as pictured. Keep the bottom of the bottle, you can use it to fill the fountain when we are all done.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes

You are going to need (2) holes in each cap. Start by drilling the (2) holes in (1) cap, use a piece of scrap wood to support the cap.

When you are done with the first cap, use it as a guide to drill (2) holes into the top of the remaining (2) caps. You can place the caps top-to-top when drilling the holes. Now you should have (3) caps, each with (2) holes drilled in about the same location.

Step 5: Drilling the Holes Part 2

Take one of the caps and use it as a guide to drill (2) holes in the bottom of one of the remaining intact bottles. This will end up being bottle {b} as in the diagram below.

Step 6: Connect the Tubing

Connect the tubing as in the diagram below. All connections should be airtight. If you used the 5/32 drill bit they should be. If not, just add a small amount of modeling clay to seal the openings around the tubing. I had to seal the area between bottle {a} & {b}.

Note: Make sure the tubing is at the proper heights in each bottle. These heights are Very Important.

Step 7: Add Water and Enjoy!

Now all you have to do is fill bottle {b} with water and screw the whole system together. To start your fountain, add water to the upper bottle {a}. Enjoy your homemade Heron's Fountain. It will last a surprisingly long time....but unfortunately, not forever!



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    1 Questions

    water flow not continue and after some time middle botal empty ?


    There must be air gaps in the tube, run it for a while and check.

    It is supposed to be empty after a while, it is not a perpetual machine.



    Nope. Sorry, perpetual motion is not possible....but it's still a fun project. Build it and you'll see what happens after a few minutes. (Hint: It stops!)


    Thanks for voting! I appreciate it.

    I wonder if would an EXTREMELY large version of this (with a generator) would produce enough energy to add and remove water to keep it running forever.. and possibly generate enough power to run a house or charge an iPod or something ?

    if you used the water to run a generator, then yes you would get electrical energy. the problem is, you arnt going to make more energy than is used up adding the water back into the system. the system can be as complex as you need, but with our laws of physics, it is impossible to produce more energy than used. this includes using temperature change, gravity and all forces that arnt part of the actual system as well.

    You might want to reconsider- ITS NOT PHYSICS ITS THERMODYNAMICS

    Possibly a nitpick, but thermodynamics is a branch of physics...



    Wait... yo... remember- thermodynamics- energy cannot be created nor destroyed... So having the water pump the water back to the top to reset the cycle would take the same or more energy than it creates... Simply speaking- doing that would be impossible, as you would get awarded for having that happen. Thermodynamics are quite annoying, just have a perpetual motion machine in your homes to create energy- but NO... THERMODYNAMICS MADE IT SO THAT ITS IMPOSSIBLE!


    Yes, a larger version would produce a larger amount of energy, maybe even enough to harness. However, the energy will eventually be used up. Unfortunately perpetual motion and/or free energy it is not going to happen with this fountain. Sad, but true.

    I agree, you got this thing made! Genius idea! Lol I feel like I finally understand physics.

    2 replies

    Thanks! The real credit goes to Heron! Although he didn't use plastic bottles! ;)

    XD no one knows... When Alexandria existed, they could have had plastic, oil, and everything we have today- but they just dispose of it with like fire or something... it could be possible...

    You should make a giant one that is powered by rain.

    2 replies

    That's a great idea! I have been thinking of a rain collection system, why not make it fun too!

    Think of this! If you put a stopper on the bottom of the bottom bottle, then you can add a lever system that has a bucket on the end, which when the rain fills up the bucket, it will tip, emptying the bucket and the bottom bottle both. Then, a rain catching system where water runs into the middle bottle. It will all be leveled out, but... the pressures will differ when the rain catching system is created... Play around- come up with good ideas for it... An idea would be having an airtight stopper that only opens when a certain pressure is applied to it, so maybe the water pressure can open it, fill it up, then close...

    Add a small turbine that can turn whatever water flow there is into electrical flow. This electrical flow can run a small compressor which will add pressure and keep it going forever :)

    2 replies

    Can't believe I didn't realize this until after I posted.

    We didn't consider the waters' evaporation from the unit. Eliminate that and it'll last muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch longer.

    Maybe seal the top or something?


     Nope, won't help. It's all powered from the pressure in the 2nd bottle. Once that pressure (generated from the gravitational forces on the water) is gone, the shows over. :)