Indiana Unveils Purdue-Designed Bicentennial Torch

Dec 11, 2015

Credit Brandon Smith / IPBS

Indiana began the countdown to its 200th birthday Friday with the unveiling of the Bicentennial Torch, which will be used for a relay next year that will travel more than 23 hundred miles to all 92 counties.

A team of Purdue University professors, engineers and students spent about a year designing the Bicentennial Torch, which is a little less than two feet tall and weighs less than five pounds.  Team leader Timothée Pourpoint says the torch was based on the one that serves as the centerpiece for the Indiana state flag.  And the Purdue professor says it was a challenge to make the torch easy to handle while packing a lot inside it:

“The batteries, the fuel tank, the electronics, the GPS, the camera, the electronic board to control everything, the Wi-Fi antenna, the burner assembly, the fuel pump…what else do we have in there?  I think that’s about it – but we have a lot of things!” 

The torch runs on Indiana-produced E-85 biofuel.  And Pourpoint says it’s also equipped with an automatic safety feature.

“In case it gets dropped, in case it falls – somebody can trip – and so what we have is a system to turn off the flame within a second of the torch passing 45 degrees," he says.

The color of the flame posed a problem. Because E-85 burns pretty cleanly and produces only a faint-bluish flame, an additive was needed to make it more visible.

There are two other versions of the torch being made. One, a smaller, kid-friendly model, uses LED lights in place of a flame. Another high-tech version will be able to withstand the high windspeed it will endure when carried on a roller coaster.