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A fire piston, sometimes called a fire syringe, is a device of ancient origin which is used to kindle fire. It uses the principle of the heating of a gas (in this case air) by its rapid (adiabatic) compression to ignite a piece of tinder, which is then used to set light to kindling.
The compression of the air when the piston is quickly rammed into the cylinder causes the interior temperature to rise sharply to 260°C (500°F). This is hot enough for the tinder on or in the piston face to ignite with a visible flash that can be seen if the cylinder is made of translucent or transparent material. The piston is then quickly withdrawn, before the now-burning tinder depletes the available oxygen inside the cylinder. The smouldering tinder can then be removed from the face of the piston and transferred to a larger nest of fine kindling material, such as hemp rope fibres, birch shavings, etc. The ember is then fanned or blown upon vigorously to create a flame, at which time various stages of larger kindling can be added until built into a proper fire.
Ancient and modern versions of fire pistons have been made from wood, animal horns, antlers, bamboo, or lead. Other metals have also been used in modern versions.