I have a question on Chemistry.SE about secondary reactions producing something other than CO2, and from a bit of discussion there, the answer seems to be that there aren't any, but some of the original ingredients can get splashed up into the LPE.

So, has anyone tried doing that? If so:

  • What was your setup?
  • How did you clean the LPE afterwards, if at all?
  • Was there any damage after a few days?

I'm thinking about a 3-step process, but I'm also wondering if it's even necessary:

  1. Run it on Baking Soda and Vinegar as planned.
  2. Run it on Water to rinse out whatever raw ingredients might have gotten into it.
  3. Run it on Air to dry out the water.

The water is probably from a garden hose, with the unsolved problem of how to hook it up to a Lego hose.

The air is probably from a shop compressor with the regulator turned down. I have a bicycle pump for testing, and a sports inflator needle to make the connection, but I don't think I want to pump it that much!

The reason to use Baking Soda and Vinegar at all, instead of just using Air in the first place, is to have a compact, self-contained system that can run itself around a track for a while, and be able to start and stop on command without over-pressurizing for lack of use or running out from constant use.

So, I've rigged up a pressure-regulated, motorized air pump to displace vinegar out of one small plastic water bottle, and into another that has the baking soda, which then creates the working gas.

I've seen a big bank of pre-pressurized soda bottles on an LPE-powered car, but that's just too bulky for what I'm doing.

Some pictures may help:

The water bottle sits horizontally, under the black "hold-down bridge", with the bottom against the RCX.

enter image description here

enter image description here

"Steam" locomotive with Walschaerts valve gear. And yes, it runs. :-) Both directions.

(Wires and sensors are in false color to show the connections.)

There's also a tender car with the other water bottle and the air pump to displace something out of it.

  • Is the use of a separate component dedicated for filtering out fluids and solid particles out of the question?
    – zovits
    Jun 2, 2020 at 8:51
  • @zovits No, I could do that. But it would have to be fairly small if I'm going to avoid another redesign. About the size of 2 Lego air tanks side-by-side, and 2 more single air tanks in other places if I get a little bit more creative. I could also put something inside the reaction vessel, which is a 0.5L water bottle on its side with hose connections in the cap.
    – AaronD
    Jun 2, 2020 at 17:22
  • What is the orientation of the bottle like, is it horizontal or vertical? If the latter, does the cap point down or up? Will the orientation change during operation?
    – zovits
    Jun 3, 2020 at 7:48
  • 2
    @zovits I added some pictures. The orientation won't change, but it'll probably slosh around a bit.
    – AaronD
    Jun 3, 2020 at 8:20
  • I wonder why you are going such complicated way (and, potentially, damaging yor pneumatic pistons) with chemicals. It seems to me it would have been easier, safer and have a consistent pressure using motorized LEGO Pneumatic pump. No overpumping could is also achieveable.
    – Alex
    Jun 3, 2020 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


I see two main problems that need to be adressed here.

  1. Intrusion of liquids into the pneumatic system
  2. Intrusion of solid particles into the pneumatic system

To filter out solid particles, namely baking soda, a fine mesh could be used, either alone or in multiple layers.

To get rid of droplets, some absorbing material such as cotton could be inserted before, after or rather between the layers of mesh.

So if we can suppose that the bottle will have an exit point that is always clear from the liquid-solid phase (based on your comment "with hose connections in the cap"), we can imagine the following filter system built inside a small diameter tube (like a plastic straw), where # denotes layers of fine mesh fixed inside the pipe, capable of holding back both baking soda dust and the loose cotton swabs:

/                                        \
|                                         \
|                                          \
|                                           \___
|                                               |
|            #cotton#cotton#cotton#cotton#======+
|                                            ___|
|------------------------------------------ /
|    o     8      O   Ö    *     0    .    /
|  °    vinegar + baking soda   :    ö    /

Or if you need to fill the bottle more than halfway, but can ensure that the sloshing will not reach the top of the laying bottle, then you might be able to use a doubly-bent straw:

/                                        \
|        #cotton#cotton#cotton#cotton#=\  \
|                                      \\  \
|                                       \\  \___
|  :         *           ö                \=====+
|       o      Ö    0        8     O    .    ___|
|   °                 Ö                     /
|    o     8      O        *     0    .    /
|  °    vinegar + baking soda   :    ö    /

But as MaxW has noted on your question over at Chemistry.SE:

You won't get pure CO2 out of an aqueous solution. There will be water vapor in the CO2.

So your metal parts will definitely be exposed to a (probably highly diluted) carbonic acid, that "can corrode, rust or pit steel but the extent of those effects depends upon the chemical composition of the steel. Stainless steel, in contrast, resists general corrosion caused by carbonic acid." (Source)

How fast of how much will the parts be corroded? I can't find a definitive answer for that, but in the end, it all comes down to three, highly variable factors:

  1. The exact composition of the steel used in your pistons (pretty much unknowable, especially since the particular pistons are about 20 years old)
  2. The concentration of carbonic acid in the generated stream of CO2 (depends on the filter, the water content of the vinegar used and probably other factors as well)
  3. The duration of exposure (that can be minimized by applying the cleaning steps outlined in your question, but consider that rinsing with water brings another set of problems, like limescale or rusting - so if I were you, I'd skip step 2 and only run it on warm, dry air to remove any moisture from the system)

Looking forward to read your experience!

  • 1
    +1 Just because of perfect ASCII art. Jun 3, 2020 at 12:24

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