The test setup was spectacularly unspectacular, consisting of a handful of small Styrofoam balls lying on the highly polished floor of the museum. Next to them, a fog machine was creating puffs of vapor. Nonetheless, you could literally feel the suspense in the atrium of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart on that day in October 2007. Visitors held their cameras ready, although they still had to wait for almost seven minutes before the magic moment finally arrived. The balls began to bounce and then spun faster and faster in a circle. They then disappeared, sucked into a smoky funnel that wound its way to the ceiling like a huge rope.
100 Things You Should Know About Mercedes-Benz | #20
Super-size vortex in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Whether they’re called tornados, typhoons, hurricanes or cyclones, destructive storms are feared the world over. At first glance, it seems all the more astounding that technicians at the Mercedes-Benz Museum decided to create their own indoor tornado in 2007. They accomplished this feat, and even secured their place in Guinness World Records as a result.
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An indoor tornado with an entry in Guinness World Records
The mini tornado twisted itself more than 34 meters upward, achieving a new world record in the process. Styrofoam and artificial fog made the twister visible for the visitors and enabled the judges from Guinness World Records to measure it. Although the feat was a world record, no-one heard any cheers or sighs of relief because the volume of the artificial storm measured 130 decibels — as loud as a plane at takeoff. But why was this vortex created? Was it meant to be a tangible meteorological exhibition? A world record for its own sake? In no way. Unlike its outdoor counterparts, the museum tornado exists to protect people, as it is the core element of the museum’s innovative fire protection concept.
The Mercedes of artificial tornados as a moving image.
A twister that can save lives
If there’s a fire, the low pressure in the center of the tornado transports smoke upward, from where it is channeled outside via the roof. The tornado is created by 144 nozzles that are incorporated into the walls of the 42-meter-high atrium. These nozzles move smoky air up past the museum’s eight floors. The advantage of this system is that if a fire breaks out, the smoke can’t spread in the museum, which has an open design. This can save lives. Toxic gases and smoke generally pose the biggest danger to life and limb during fires. And that’s precisely what the artificial storm is meant to combat by quickly and effectively removing smoke from the museum in an emergency.
Incidentally, except for the world record test in 2007 and the annual fire drill, Stuttgart’s probably most windy fire protection system has never seen any action. The last time it was in the news was on April 1, 2019, when it was announced that the artificial twister enables people to skydive inside the Mercedes-Benz Museum. If you have doubts on this point because of the date of the announcement, you are right, because the claim was only an April Fools’ joke.