Leaves in a Blender

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Published on December 5th, 2012  |  Discuss This Article  

It’s the end of the leaf drop in the New York City suburbs, and the leaves that made it through the 70+ mph winds of Super Storm Sandy have lost their battle with time.

My middle son and I cleaned up the leaves in our yard a few days ago: thirty minutes of help raking in the wind and cold in exchange for watching one YouTube Minecraft video. Win-win for father and son.

Noticing that the leaves compress greatly when packed into a 32-gallon (121-liter) trash barrel, my son and I wondered just how far the volume of dry leaves could be reduced.

To find out, we retrieved the electric blender from the kitchen, filled it with leaves from the trash barrel, and turned it on. In 30 seconds, we had a leaf powder that was finer than ground coffee and converted 1.75 liters of loose-packed leaves into 100 ml of leaf  “dander.”

We did this several times to get an average and then measured the number of times I could fill the blender from one trash barrel of leaves. It was 26. Thus, with a kitchen blender, it is possible to could compress 32 gallons of leaves to 0.67 gallons.

In other words, the volume of leaves was reduced to 2% of its original volume. Amazing how little mass there is in dried leaves. Fifty trash barrels of leaves can be reduced to one barrel…with a big enough blender and enough time.

This is not all we learned. We learned that pin oak leaves blend slower than Japanese maple leaves, sticks are not good for blenders, and pulsing the blender works better than a steady speed.

Fortunately, no appliances were injured in the making of this experiment though my retired-librarian neighbor is still wondering about the sanity of guy next door who she observed pouring leaves into his kitchen blender on his front lawn.

(Photo: Blending the leaves. Credit: Craig Leisher/TNC)

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