Here’s a strange thought to start your day: You probably have something in common with a terrorist. We’ll think about that, today on Engineering Works!
We usually don’t think of terrorists as firing up the grill for a backyard barbecue. That’s something folks like us do. But the chances are pretty good that when you hit the switch to light your gas-fired grill, you’re using technology terrorists use for what they do.
Sounds scary, huh? It’s not, really. Here’s what’s going on. When you push that button to ignite the gas to grill your steak, the pressure from your finger bends a small crystal down in the switch. Just a little. Engineers call it a piezoelectric crystal. That bending causes stresses in the crystal and out comes an electric current. Enough to make a spark to touch off the gas.
One of terrorists’ favorite weapons is a rocket launcher called an R-P-G. If you were an explosives expert, you could take apart the warhead of an R-P-G rocket. Don’t try this at home, kids. Inside, there’s a thing called a detonator that makes the explosive explode when the rocket hits something.
Inside the detonator is a piezoelectric crystal, a lot like the one in your gas grill. When the rocket hits something, the force bends that crystal, and the electricity it makes touches off the warhead.
Our crystal has taken about all the pressure we can stand, so we’re out of here. We’ll see you next time.
Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web. Engineeringworks.tamu.edu.