Good Thinking

Artist creates mesmerizing "Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator"

Artist creates mesmerizing "Pn...
Niklas Roy's Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator
Niklas Roy's Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator
View 18 Images
Niklas Roy's Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator
1/18
Niklas Roy's Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator
The machine has two bubbles between which it moves the foam balls
2/18
The machine has two bubbles between which it moves the foam balls
The direction of the airflow can be changed to avoid one of the bubbles simply filling up
3/18
The direction of the airflow can be changed to avoid one of the bubbles simply filling up
The machine is powered by a vacuum cleaner
4/18
The machine is powered by a vacuum cleaner
A large illuminated sign points to the touch sensor that individuals can use to activate the machine
5/18
A large illuminated sign points to the touch sensor that individuals can use to activate the machine
Touching the sensor a second time will change the direction of the airflow
6/18
Touching the sensor a second time will change the direction of the airflow
The sensor is clearly marked and simple to use
7/18
The sensor is clearly marked and simple to use
Fiber optics are used to light the sensor
8/18
Fiber optics are used to light the sensor
Almost all the workings of the machine are transparent, so that users can see what's happening
9/18
Almost all the workings of the machine are transparent, so that users can see what's happening
The machine was designed to be intriguing to passers-by, simple to use and mesmerizing to watch
10/18
The machine was designed to be intriguing to passers-by, simple to use and mesmerizing to watch
The Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator is installed at the Tschumi Pavilion in Groningen, The Netherlands
11/18
The Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator is installed at the Tschumi Pavilion in Groningen, The Netherlands
There is 150 m (492 ft) of tubing through which the balls travel
12/18
There is 150 m (492 ft) of tubing through which the balls travel
The balls hit speeds of up to 4 m/s (13 ft/s)
13/18
The balls hit speeds of up to 4 m/s (13 ft/s)
The machine is illuminated at night-time
14/18
The machine is illuminated at night-time
Th workings appear highly complex to the user
15/18
Th workings appear highly complex to the user
The machine is inspired by particle accelerators such as the LHC
16/18
The machine is inspired by particle accelerators such as the LHC
When the direction of the airflow is reversed, hundreds of the balls slow down all at the same time and then speed up in the other direction
17/18
When the direction of the airflow is reversed, hundreds of the balls slow down all at the same time and then speed up in the other direction
Roy says he would change the airflow if he had the opportunity to do so, to make it spiral into the bubbles
18/18
Roy says he would change the airflow if he had the opportunity to do so, to make it spiral into the bubbles
View gallery - 18 images

If you were fascinated by marble runs as a kid, then you'll want to take a look at a new machine created by artist Niklas Roy. The Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator is an interactive installation that sucks foam balls though transparent tubes at high speed. Users can control the direction of the airflow.

Roy calls himself an "inventor of useless things." Although his creations may have no actionable use, they provide entertainment and intrigue to their viewers. By way of reference, the Space Replay floating sphere that records and replays the sounds around it, and Emilie Baltz and Carla Diana's Lickestra musical ice cream might fit into this category too.

The Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator is inspired by particle accelerators such as the LHC. Roy explains that although they can be huge machines with "super-cool, cryptic names," they are often incomprehensible to ordinary people and it is not possible to actually see what happens inside them with your own eyes.

The machine has two bubbles between which it moves the foam balls
The machine has two bubbles between which it moves the foam balls

"As I’m a fan of science and physics in particular, I find it a pity that the current particle accelerators make the observation of the little speedy particles so complicated," says Roy on his website. "So when the Director of the Tschumi Foundation approached me and asked me if I’d like to build a machine inside their beautiful pavilion located in the center of a roundabout in Groningen, I saw my chance: I decided to construct a machine which would bring the tremendous joy of particle acceleration to everyone."

The machine comprises a large transparent box, the inner workings of which can be seen from the outside. Two transparent bubbles (Bubble A and Bubble B) are joined by a long track of airtight pipes. There is 150 m (492 ft) of tubing through which the balls travel and Roy says they hit speeds of up to 4 m/s (13 ft/s). The foam balls are moved from one bubble to the other using a vacuum cleaner to change the air pressure and shoot them through the tubes.

Touching the sensor a second time will change the direction of the airflow
Touching the sensor a second time will change the direction of the airflow

"When the vacuum cleaner is sucking air out of Bubble B, it lowers the air pressure inside this bubble, which will be equalized immediately by the incoming air from Bubble A," explains Roy. "This creates an airflow between the bubbles, which entrains the particles."

Given that all of the balls would end up in one of the bubbles eventually, Roy built a switch mechanism into the machine to change the direction of the airflow. The switch is simply a mechanism that blocks certain pipe combinations whilst creating others.

The sensor is clearly marked and simple to use
The sensor is clearly marked and simple to use

The machine is activated by people placing their hand over a touch sensor. This sets the airflow running and users can reverse the direction of the airflow by simply touching the sensor again.

"Visually, it is a very impressive experience to see all the balls race through the pipes at very high speed," says Roy. "They are so fast, it is almost impossible to follow them. But when you reverse the direction of the airflow, hundreds of balls slow down all at the same time, just to speed up in the other way one moment later."

Roy says he would change the airflow if he had the opportunity to do so, to make it spiral into the bubbles
Roy says he would change the airflow if he had the opportunity to do so, to make it spiral into the bubbles

Roy decorated the machine to make it appealing to use. The sensor glows in the shape of a hand whilst a huge illuminated arrow makes sure that it can't be missed. An LED spotlight switches from red to green if someone touches the sensor and black/yellow adhesive tape completes the high-tech industrial look.

The Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator is an exciting and imaginative creation and Roy's enthusiasm for it is evident. He's even gone so far as to send a camera through the machine.

The video below shows the Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator in action.

Source: Niklas Roy

Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator - An installation at Tschumi Pavilion, Groningen

View gallery - 18 images
5 comments
5 comments
The Skud
WOW! Make a slightly smaller version to fit on an 8x6 trailer and add a coin-operated timer power switch. Take it to parks, malls, shopping centres etc and it would pay for itself in weeks!
S Michael
A waste of time and money,,, Make something useful. If there is something useful here, please explain what......
Mia H
@ S Michael Enjoyment, curiosity, intrigue and visual stimulation are not useless things. Also, did you miss the part where it's explained that it's inspired by particle accelerators such as the LHC which are amazing but are hard to understand and make the observation of the little speedy particles so complicated. So this gives the average joe at least some sense of particle acceleration. The usefulness here is the interactive, entertainment factor as well as being a sort of middle man between the public and high end science. (For some kids and adults it may also be an inspiring - as in take action to do something like become a scientist or artist - factor)
kalqlate
The way the video is composed, it makes it hard to get the context and scope of the device.
Riaanh
I second the WOW!!
Creations like this really stimulate creativity.
Two suggestions to the artist: 1) This would really be a sight with lighted balls. (LED's with a capacitor in the ball?) 2) Next stop, create a huge public clock on the same principle.