Both of these toys work on the same idea – a vortex generator. Such toys have actually been made for ages (usually home-made versions, although Wham-O make an air blaster for a while) to shoot ‘balls’ of air. This is invisible but some folks found that by adding some smoke to the equation they could make nifty smoke rings. The hard part was making the smoke. The usual method was to make drop a small smoke bomb into the home-made vortex generators and shoot until the smoke ran out. But the Zero Blasters fixed that by actually making their own smoke! The battery power in the Zero Blaster heats up the smoke fluid (the fluid is non-toxic being made of distilled water, glycerin, and Propylene Glycol) and fills the chamber with smoke. Then when you pulled on the trigger (or the knob with the Mini-Zero Blaster) it makes a vortex ring and you get a smoke ring!
So let’s see this guy in action, not just still photos.
So how is a vortex generated? The long and short of it is that you have a membrane that gets thumped to produce a wave of air, but then you have that wave go through a hole that is much smaller than the membrane. The result is that the air ‘curls’ to form a ring! This diagram provided by the nice folks at Zero Toys might help you understand it:
Its pretty much that simple. In fact if you want to take the time you can make your own out of a plastic trash can and a shower curtain. They are a bit unwieldy but you can scale them down if you like, or just get yourself a Zero Blaster to make your life easier.
But if you do decide to go upsized from our favorite little toy, take a look at some of the possibilities: