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In the universe I am designing, an anthropomorphic species exists that can create fire at will. One normal human wants to trick others into thinking she is one of these creatures.

She wants to design a glove which produces little flames/sparks when it contacts human skin during hand-to-hand-combat, thereby demonstrating that she can create fire seemingly "at will." The fighting style is similar to MMA with fewer rules, which for this question means: a lot of skin is exposed, gloves are allowed, armor and other weapons are not allowed.

Is it feasible to create a glove that e.g. is coated with a material that sparks little flames when coming into contact with human skin?

Some points to keep in mind for creating this glove:

  • The glove/flames should not hurt the wearer
  • It is not important how big the flames are / if the flames damage the opponent (the psychological effect is enough)
  • Technological level: I prefer ~15th century Europe, but you are free to choose whatever suits your idea
  • It should be "reusable," so that you can hit the enemy multiple times with the "fire-glove" and produce flames/sparks each time
  • The definition of "glove" for this question is "a covering for the hand made with a separate sheath for each finger and for the thumb"; I will not impose restrictions on weight/size/color/ … . This means you don’t have to restrict yourself to typical MMA gloves.
  • It is not important where exactly the flames are created. This means it doesn't matter if your idea for example only works at the tip of the fingernail or only in the palm of the hand. But some words on the preferred fighting-style when using your idea would be nice.

If you need any more background information about the universe that this glove is supposed to work in or about the creatures that this normal human wants to imitate please have a look at my other question "The role of anthropomorphic foxes in a medieval army".

If you need to adjust the technological level, the attire of the combat, the damage of the glove or something else please feel free to do so.

The goal is to create a glove that produces little flames/sparks on contact with human skin.

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    $\begingroup$ Well I can't speak for the ignition source, but soaking the gloves in an ethanol/water mix (with extra water) is a way to have flaming lace gloves that don't hurt the wearer (thanks to the high water content absorbing the heat). It won't ignite on contact, but if you character can ignite it stealthily enough, the end result should be pretty much the same. $\endgroup$ – Samwise Jan 21 '17 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ Why just human skin? What if she wants to, say, burn a forest down, and the only way to ignite it is to touch her forearm, revealing that she is a human (no fur) ? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Jan 21 '17 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra I am thinking about her saying she is a sort of late-blooming very young kitsune, which is why she has no visible features that these creatures normally have. This would also serve to explain to other normal humans why her "magic" is so weak that she can only create fire at point-blank range. She is not supposed to be burning down whole forests. But it's an interesting idea, I will keep it in mind. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 22 '17 at 12:47

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There are several chemicals which could (for alchemically improbable values of "could") be produced with 15th-century technology (they called them oil of vitriol and sal alcalinus fixus, but still) which could erupt in flames when properly mixed.

What you would need then is a multilayered glove:

  • an inner layer of supple leather, possibly water-soaked just in case.
  • middle layers of gauze impregnated with combustible substance and accelerants.
  • the outer layer is leather again, with small holes.

When you hit an opponent with enough force, the glove is locally squeezed, resulting in a bout of flame (the first two or three prototypes of the glove will probably sort of combust).

Adding specific chemicals can then change the colour of the flames.

Unfortunately, all reactions that come to mind tend to be too weak, leave a suspicious-looking and foul-smelling soot and smoke residue, or both. Also, the glove would quickly lose charge.

I had entertained the concept of piezoelectric crystals, but while such a glove would be possible with 15th-century technology, it still requires twentieth century knowledge. And of course, it is not flame.

Another possibility is mechanoluminescent crystals - see here for a low-tech flashy ceremonial rattle - but the light is weak, clearly not flame, and too clearly related to the hitting, not to any power of the wielder.

Then, probably not achievable with 15th-century tolerances but it would be flame, you could incorporate some slam rods into the glove. Add iron filings to the tinder and get impressive flames.

Much more difficult to conceal, but extremely low tech is the hidden coal trick. There was this man, Eunus - a Syrian slave if memory serves - who used a nutshell with two small holes at opposite sides, filled with combustible materials and one small, oxygen-starved, slowly smoldering coal. One evening he would hide the nut in his cheek, purposely enter an altercation with someone, and at the proper moment he would move the nut against the palate with the tongue, and blow. The sudden burst of flames in the enemy's face was very impressive.

Using a semi-inflated air bladder hidden in the glove could help achieve a similar effect; I don't dare estimate the reliability in combat of such a cantrip, though. The coal might extinguish, or to the contrary, it might set the glove on fire.

For added reliability and control, the bladder could be somewhere else - e.g. on the upper arm. Contracting the upper arm would still get air flowing and fire blown out of hidden vents, but now hitting the adversary is not required, and it would not automatically (and visibly mechanically) result in fire spouts. And you could get a couple of spouts before combat, and before anything unforeseen happens to the mechanics.

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Human skin does not have many properties which make it instantly "recognizable" to a device at 15th century tech level, but their are two noticeable features to it.

  1. Moisture - There are multiple different substances which would produce flames on contact with moisture and therefore skin. However, these would NOT be reusable, and would have to be re coated with the substance fairly regularly. There is also a chance that a) the area of skin would not be moist enough to start the reaction, or b) the gloves would combust in contact with other moisture (bad). However, this added challenge with these particular gloves (i.e. limited uses per fight, have to strike in certain areas) might present a nice addition to your characters battle dynamic

  2. Conductivity - The creation of flames using electrical conductivity would require a substance to be used as fuel which would be sparked and then lit, so we should really just stick to sparks here. There are numerous ways to create a spark on contact with a conductive material, but tech level must be taken into account, so a voltaic pile-style electrochemical cell would probably be your best bet. When these gloves come near a conductive substance (like a human) they could produce a cool tesla coil-esque spark that would hit the skin and give a mild electric shock. You would need to somehow integrate this cell into the glove, perhaps a cylinder on the back of the hand. Again, these gloves would be triggered by any conductive substance, but again, this could introduce an interesting plot element when it comes to the characters fighting.

Needless to say, the gloves would have to be both fireproof and an electrical insulator in contact with the skin, but there are are many ways of doing that and that should not be too much of a problem.

No matter how advanced these gloves are, however, nothing in the real world, at least with any non-modern tech level would be able to replicate this effect exactly, so it is probably more possible if you were to introduce a world mechanic, such as gloves made from elements of the bodies of these fire-creators, as this would be far more viable.

EDIT: Thinking about it, a souped up version of the kind of gunpowder caps used in cap guns would be very plausible, a small pressure activated explosive would be fine if it is not ESSENTIAL to be reusable, simply punching your assailant would be enough to detonate

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 I don't want to incorporate a world mechanic if it is possible to do this any other way, but it is an interesting point. Also I liked your edit about the cap guns, even if it doesn't work with the reusability. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 22 '17 at 12:50
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Materials Depending on how lethal you want the flames to be I would suggest one of the higher elements on Period 1 of the Periodic Table. Francium is an extremely unstable element that essentially explodes when it comes into contact with moisture. How ever for the safety and realism of the wearer I would suggest a small amount of Cesium.

Design Alright so lets assume you go for a small amount of Cesium. You still need a very thick insulating lining that protects the wearer. The lining needs to be fireproof and very robust. The cesium should come in small discs on the tip of each finger and the base of the hand. If you cover the entire outside of the glove with cesium, it would remove the users entire hand.

How to Use Simply grab the arm of your victim, the bodily moisture will react with the cesium. It will erupt in flames, leaving your prey with vicious burns. The only downside is the cesium will need replacing each time. You might also want to take a damp cloth in case your victim isn't quite wet enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would note that Francium is too unstable to be used in this context, and caesium would not have been possible to be purely extracted until much much later than this tech level, not to mention it would burn up probably even in a humid environment, as its sensitivity to moisture is so high. Potassium or other less reactive materials would be much safer, if less reliable. $\endgroup$ – Arcayn Jan 21 '17 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Arcayn The question states " I prefer ~15th century Europe, but you are free to choose whatever suits your idea". So the tech level argument is obsolete. But do you think Rubidium would be more suitable than Cesium? Personally I think any thing less reactive than Cesium would be too unreliable like you said above. $\endgroup$ – Garto Jan 21 '17 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ Francium has a half life of around 22 minutes, so you won't have any after very long. It would also have to be kept airtight, as it explodes violently when exposed to oxygen and/or water vapor. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Mar 30 '17 at 5:53
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What about building little flamethrowers into the glove, one on each finger? Run some flexible tubing (similar to vinyl, perhaps with treated animal skins) to the tips of the fingers, pump something flammable through it (if gasoline and butane are too advanced, you can use some substance like Greek Fire), and have a flint sparker on the end of the tube, like a lighter. This way, it doesn't even need to be triggered by the enemy's touch, but truly on demand (and, if you wish, that can be every time they touch).

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How important is it that skin itself be the trigger, rather than having a controllable trigger in the glove?

So, I have this lighter - unlike the wheel type ones, it has a simple press button on top to ignite the flame. Similar click lighting flint and steel mechanisms are a thing, and simple tubes will let the fuel be stored further away, the better to hide small mechanisms. One could certainly rewire such lighter mechanisms into a glove, to go off when certain parts of the glove are struck - and fuel stored in thin pouches on the back of the hand, or at the cuffs. Smack the glove in the right place, the button goes click, and you have a brief fire (brief because the mechanism stops supplying fuel when the pressure lets up). Smack and hold, and the fire stays up for a bit longer. Depending on placement, it might be possible to have the clickers spark only when striking, only when deliberately triggering (by hand pressure or finger placement) or some of each.

And that also got me thinking, about simple flint and steel - especially if you're looking for 15th century technology. I admit I'm not as sure about the historical development of lighters, but some flint, some steel, and a spring mechanism (which should be available at the time) could create a mechanism that sparked off when struck violently enough. You could leave it as is, if you have several - little sparks would fit the criteria (and leave scorch marks), though it might not be very flashy.

The trickier part, I think, would be turning that spark into flame... it needs fuel. Maybe some small gobs of pitch would work, if well positioned - if the flames can be shaken out by hand, the pitch will be good for several ignitions before it's all covered with soot or smeared about too much to ignite easily. But if the pitch doesn't go out easily, either it will be a one-shot trick (pitch keeps burning until eaten by the fire), or else the glove will catch on fire and scorch your character's hands. Perhaps some form of fat would be a better choice, I believe it takes a bit more to light, but it should light, and also go out more easily - and if a solid fat like lard is chosen, it might be easy to store (squash the stuff into cloth or leather tubes, as opposed to mucking about with liquid accelerator), and solid fat might only run out in drips and drabs as the hands and flames warm it up and let it ooze - much better for multiple use strikes.

A spring loaded mechanism would probably have to be loaded onto the palm or heel of the hand (flames with open palm strikes, but not so much fists), since it would take considerable force to force flint and steel together strongly enough for big sparks (slow pressure or weak force might make grinding noises, but probably not visible sparks). If slightly more advanced press button lighter-type systems are allowed, the buttons might be put between the fingers, so they only go off when deliberately pressing the sides of the fingers together, and not with normal lifting and gripping.

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Maybe using small flints that make some spark, after that you can have some sections in the glove that will trigger with different types of hits, of course you will have a limited number of flames, but you can have a lot of little sparks.

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Static electricity?

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned this. How about a glove, that when touches another's skin, generates a positive and negative charge. From there, either a gas or some type of highly flammable chemical would take care of the flame.

Your glove could be made out of any of the given materials:

  • Leather
  • Rabbit fur
  • Cat fur
  • Wool
  • Silk

Naturally, after a single use, the charge and flammability wear out. You'd have to top up the flammable chemicals and, of course, recharge the glove.

There are a number of ways to recharge the glove. The most simple? Rubbing it against some type of plastic (Polyurethane). Perhaps that's where we run into a problem. The first polyurethanes were rendered in the 1930s. So you might want to research other alternatives, here's a document that might answer that question for you.

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I'm thinking of some sort of point-blank nanoweapon, one in each of the fist.

My original idea was a small flamethrower on each knuckle, with a trigger also on the knuckle, so when someone punches another person, it burns the flesh. If it's handmade, say the base is a winter glove, if not use a shiny metal gauntlet. I'm a Sci-Fi person, so I'm going to be going into the advanced tech.

First of all, I thought of a small needle that punctures the skin then draws tissue, which triggers the mechanism. This would look like a thin ring with a needle on it and a wire leading down the arm. The whole thing would be hidden by a long sleeve. The actual weapon would do two things:

  • open a valve which releases a vaporized sticky napalm, preferable early on in the fight or before it even starts.

  • The second part is triggered by the needle, which is essentially the sparking of a lighter.

The result: A sly way to BURN YOUR ENEMIES TO DEATH!

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Not being a Chemist thus not having knowledge for being able to cite specifics: but it could be conceivable that there is a substance the glove is constructed from/soaked with that reacts with sweat (or something in sweat, like salt).

It would probably only create a small flame, related to the amount of sweat in contact with the glove, limiting the duration thus allowing the glove to last an extended period of time. Depending on the reagent that causes the flame the user could have a hidden vial or bladder of the substance to 'create fire at will' outside of a fight.

A downside to this is that the fire gets worse as the combatants sweat more. This would make the user seem like they have little stamina or rely heavily on the ability to make fire in their combat style.

The only safety measures are the user couldn't touch themselves and the inside of the glove would have to be waterproof. (Or the fire 'producing' fabric is sewn on in certain patches, thus easier to replace and only the patches need to be isolated from the user's sweat.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Fyreye! Good answer. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Mar 10 '18 at 9:59
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That is not possible in the real world, but you presumably have such a mechanism in your story’s universe. What you need to do is use the same mechanism.

The gloves are made from alien lether, or treated with extracts from the alien skin, or something like that.

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