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Olympic Torches

Nature volume 162, page 175 (31 July 1948) | Download Citation



THE Organising Committee of the XIVth Olympiad approached the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1946 for assistance and advice on the design of a torch to be carried by relays of runners across Europe from the plain of Olympia to Wembley Stadium in London, and on the most suitable fuel. This problem was undertaken by the Fuel Research Station, and the actual investigation was carried out by Dr. L. R. B. Shackleton. After many trials, it was decided that the most suitable fuel was hexamine in the form of tablets. Hexamine gives a non-luminous flame, and to make the flame visible in all weathers 6 per cent of naphthalene was added. The fuel was manufactured by Promedico Products, Ltd., 22, Turle Road, London, N.4. Prototype torches made at the Fuel Research Station were tried out by runners, first from the South London Harriers and, after certain modifications in design, by officers from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. In the final design of the torch, seven tablets are enclosed in a perforated metal cylinder with an inner sleeve concealing the lower three tablets. As the upper tablets burn away, the lower reserves are forced up into the burning zone by a spring. In order to facilitate lighting, the Wessex Aircraft Engineering Co., Ltd., Salisbury, provided a tablet of nitrate composition which was introduced on top of the fuel pack. A quick-match, provided for ignition, protruded through the perforated container. One or two final refinements were introduced at the concluding stages to safeguard the effectiveness of the torches during transport to the various countries through which the relay runners had to pass. The fuel tablets Were totally enclosed in a nitro-cellulose cover provided by Cascelloid, Ltd., High Holborn, London. This cover burned immediately on ignition, leaving no carbon residue. The perforated metal fuel container Was also capped and sealed with adhesive tape. Both of these precautions were considered necessary to preserve the fuel and to avoid any risks of accidental ignition.

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