Author Topic: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water  (Read 6681 times)

Offline CdnGuy

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Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« on: March 26, 2012, 06:49:23 PM »
Has anyone ever generated their own acetylene from carbide and water? How'd it go? Where'd you get the carbide? Is carbide easy to store safely?

I have an Australian book on handy home and farm devices and it shows how to generate acetylene with carbide and water. Basically it was two oil drums, one inverted and over the other. So they could slide together.

In the bottom was water, and on the top drum was a basket or wires to hold carbide. The top drum also had a valve in the side going to some hose which would feed the acetylene into the house to feed the lanterns and such.

This was a very ramshackle design compared to what I found here: http://chestofbooks.com/home-improvement/repairs/Mechanics-Household/Types-Of-Acetylene-Generators.html but it would work.

If anyone has more experience with this, I'd love to read it.
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Offline JerseyVince

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 07:06:03 PM »
look up carbide lamps early autos had them, miners used them for years. I believe Petzl made a cpl for cavers

here's a beginners guide to carbide cap lamps
http://forums.abandonedmines.net/viewtopic.php?t=892

Offline nelson96

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2012, 07:08:33 PM »
Doh! . . .  Boy you really like messing with stuff you shouldn't don't you? ;)

This is my field of expertise (well, my line of work anyway) . . . .  Acetylene generators were everywhere many years ago and went away as much safer means were available.  Even minors lights were powered by carbide and water at one time.  But, it's nothing to mess with, especially in high concentrations, using improper containment, or without good ventilation.

Yes carbide is very readily available still today.  That's how we make acetylene for use in the welding industry.  It must be stored in a dry place that is well ventilated.
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Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2012, 06:27:15 PM »
I'd like to hear more about it.

Where does one get carbide?  How much does it cost?  What makes this method dangerous?  Is it more dangerous than, say, running a boiler for a steam engine?  How can it be safely stored.  Assuming acetylene is produced, how could the home user safely store it?

What can be powered with acetylene, aside from torches?  Where does carbide come from?

Offline nelson96

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2012, 07:28:22 PM »
I'd like to hear more about it.

Where does one get carbide?  How much does it cost?  What makes this method dangerous?  Is it more dangerous than, say, running a boiler for a steam engine?  How can it be safely stored.  Assuming acetylene is produced, how could the home user safely store it?

What can be powered with acetylene, aside from torches?  Where does carbide come from?

Where does one get carbide?  There are a handful of sources, it depends on the quantity you are willing to buy as to whether they will bother selling to you or not.  Your best bet would be locating a "welding supply store" that has an acetylene generation plant.  They might be willing to sell a coffee can amount to you.

How much does it cost?  I couldn't really say anymore, but would expect that it wouldn't be much.

What makes this method dangerous?  Acetylene is a highly combustible gas composed of carbon and hydrogen.  Of course the carbide itself is pretty stable (as long as it doesn't come in contact with moisture).

Is it more dangerous than, say, running a boiler for a steam engine?  I don't know a lot about boilers, couldn't say.

How can it be safely stored?  Carbide must be stored in a very DRY and well ventilated area.

Assuming acetylene is produced, how could the home user safely store it?  There lye's the problem.  Once acetylene is produced, I'm not sure how a "novice" could safely store it. . . .  As an "industry" product, acetylene is supplied dissolved in acetone (pumped in to a cylinder).  Acetylene cylinders contain porous material capable of storing the acetone-acetylene solution.   

What can be powered with acetylene, aside from torches?   A common use way back when were miner's lamps and headlights on Model T cars.

Where does carbide come from?  Calcium Carbide is a manufactured product.
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One hundred thousand generations of people lived and ate as hunter-gatherers, and only two generations have grown up on highly processed fast foods. . .  It's not too late


Offline CdnGuy

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2012, 07:45:09 PM »
Is it more dangerous than, say, running a boiler for a steam engine? If run without proper training and attention, a boiler for a steam engine can explode and kill you. So could a carbide acetylene generator.

Assuming acetylene is produced, how could the home user safely store it? That is the problem indeed. If one were to produce acetylene at home with this method, you would have to use it as you produced it. Which means knowing a heck of lot about explosive gas plumbing and devices. Probably not practical for your average person.

What can be powered with acetylene, aside from torches?  Anything that requires a flame or combustion. Mind you, the device should be specifically engineered for use with acetylene. I wouldn't try to run a gas or propane generator with it.

I do think that an acetylene generator could be designed that would be as safe to run as a gas or propane generator. It probably hasn't been done due to liability issues and lack of a market.

This method is best life to people willing to get the training and probably only for survivalist situations.
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Offline nelson96

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2012, 07:52:50 PM »
I do think that an acetylene generator could be designed that would be as safe to run as a gas or propane generator. It probably hasn't been done due to liability issues and lack of a market.

This method is best life to people willing to get the training and probably only for survivalist situations.

It's fairly easy to find antique acetylene generators.  They don't make them anymore due to liability reasons (good 'ol tort) . . .  Too many barns blew up.
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One hundred thousand generations of people lived and ate as hunter-gatherers, and only two generations have grown up on highly processed fast foods. . .  It's not too late

Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2012, 05:01:12 AM »
Thank you for such quick replies.   Seems way too dangerous for a home user, but it's always good to learn about something new.

Looks like wood gas, methane, and fuel alcohol are still the top contenders for homemade fuel post teotwawki.  Added to solar & wind, a fairly decent standard of living could be achieved sans the current infrastructure.

And for welders after the apocalypse, don't worry.  You could always use hydrogen cutting torches. ;D

Thanks again.

Offline Pathfinder

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2012, 05:53:37 AM »
Is it more dangerous than, say, running a boiler for a steam engine? If run without proper training and attention, a boiler for a steam engine can explode and kill you. So could a carbide acetylene generator.


Actually, boilers rupture, acetylene explodes. Both violently, and with boilers you also get scalding - being boiled alive. Of course, with acetylene you don't get that, but then you're already in little pieces what with the exploding and all.

I've done caving using a carbide head lamp, and you go through a lot of protocols with the raw carbide to keep it dry, and therefore not producing acetylene. And there are protocols for disposing of the "spent" carbide (which continues to off-gas acetylene, just not enough to light a lamp with) as well.

If you go this route, it is probably most appropriate for ad hoc lighting, but its uses are limited. You DO NOT go looking for propane leaks in the night wearing a carbide lamp!   ;)

And you can always tell a new carbide lamp user in the daytime. They're the ones with the small burns on the back of their hands!!
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Offline nelson96

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2012, 08:32:55 AM »
I do think that an acetylene generator could be designed that would be as safe to run as a gas or propane generator. It probably hasn't been done due to liability issues and lack of a market.

I think I missunderstood your statement when I replied to it earlier.  I think now that you meant a generator to produce power, not a generator to produce acetylene . . . .   ABSOLUTELY NOT could you create a generator that runs on acetylene, unless you wanted to blow you and your neighbors up.  Acetylene is far too unstable.
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 ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

One hundred thousand generations of people lived and ate as hunter-gatherers, and only two generations have grown up on highly processed fast foods. . .  It's not too late

Offline LdMorgan

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Re: Making Acetylene with Carbide and Water
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2012, 04:18:47 PM »
Calcium carbide would be fairly expensive, compared to ordinary acetylene gas.

Also, being so easy to make explosive, shipping it would be a real hoot. It probably has haz-mat regs about the same as raw nitro.

Plain pressurized acetylene gas--all by itself-- is unstable just like nitro. It will explode at a hard look or just for the hell of it.

Compressed acetylene is stored in tanks that have porous fillers and up to 50% by volume of  acetone inside them. That tames the acetylene the same way clay tamed nitro--that being what dynamite is.

That being said, acetylene gas can be used as a source of flame for a steam boiler, as long as the gas pressure is kept low. Start of with an ordinary air/acetylene torch and build your boiler to match.

If you want to use calcium carbide as a direct engine fuel, read up on carbide cannons and early nitroglycerin engines. That should get you started.

(Uhhh, and if you do...can I have all your preps when you die?)
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