Re-create Heron's Fountain From Water Bottles

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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I originally made this project for the MAKE blog.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?

Supplies:

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!

Scissors
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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    71 Discussions

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    wurxKarimK34

    Reply 3 months ago

    Just a few minutes, and it depends on the size of the bottles used.

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    wurxKarimK34

    Reply 4 months ago

    It runs for about 3 minutes or so.

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    jduffy54

    6 years ago on Step 7

    Unil the middle bottle is emptiedish. Basically, it's powered by water going from the middle to bottom bottle, and once the pressure it too low, it stops.

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    BrianM172jduffy54

    Reply 3 years ago

    Nope, you got this wrong, water from the top goes to the bottom, pushing air up to the middle bottle, pushing water up and out...

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    jduffy54

    6 years ago on Step 7

    Oh, and also, thanks for the instructable, I had been looking for one of these a few years ago, but couldn't find any cheap designs that didn't use lab-type equipment. Good job, I think I'll build one.

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    wurxjduffy54

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thanks! Hope you build one!

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    wurxjduffy54

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 7

    Thanks! Send me pics if you build your own!

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    wurxPietroM26

    Reply 4 months ago

    100% no. Just cool physics in action.

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    wurxPietroM26

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!)

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    Manish GiriG

    Question 1 year ago

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

    2 answers
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    wurxManish GiriG

    Reply 4 months ago

    Once the bottle is empty, the water stops.

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    MohitL2Manish GiriG

    Answer 1 year ago

    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.

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    VictorB205

    Question 9 months ago

    I read your article on MAKE and came here because I have been having problems building my heron fountain... So far, using the diagram you have shown as well as the classic saucer and round bottle picture related to this project, I was wondering something.... Would this work if you reversed the functions of bottle 2 and 3?

    In other words, I wanted to put the tank where the fountaon feeds from (bottle B) at the very bottom so I can try a few alterations on the resevoir (bottle C) and the fountain (bottle A).... Lile adding a couple different layers of varying sizes on the fountain....

    However, with not many sources to read on the reasonning for why Heron' fountain is built that way, I chose to ask you.... Can the resevoir be higher than the tank?

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    littlechef37wurx

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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 ?

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    rocketkidlittlechef37

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.