Balloon

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Balloons are given for special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays, and are often used as party decor. Congrats bqt.jpg
Balloons are given for special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays, and are often used as party décor.

A balloon is a flexible bag that can be inflated with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen, air. For special tasks, balloons can be filled with smoke, liquid water, granular media (e.g. sand, flour or rice), or light sources. Modern day balloons are made from materials such as rubber, latex, polychloroprene, or a nylon fabric, and can come in many different colors. Some early balloons were made of dried animal bladders, such as the pig bladder. Some balloons are used for decorative purposes or entertaining purposes, while others are used for practical purposes such as meteorology, medical treatment, military defense, or transportation. A balloon's properties, including its low density and low cost, have led to a wide range of applications.

Contents

The rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824, during experiments with various gases. He invented them for use in the lab. [1]

Applications

Decoration or entertainment

Balloon decorating

Decorations made of balloons with a combination of stacking and twisting techniques showcasing the deco-twisting style. Giant Balloon Nutcracker Figures for Rays Game.jpg
Decorations made of balloons with a combination of stacking and twisting techniques showcasing the deco-twisting style.

Balloons are used for decorating birthday parties, weddings, corporate functions, school events, and for other festive gatherings. The artists who use the round balloons to build are called "stackers" and the artists who use pencil balloons to build are called "twisters." Most commonly associated with helium balloon decor, more recently balloon decorators have been moving towards the creation of air-filled balloon decorations due to the non-renewable natural resource of helium limited in supply. The most common types of balloon decor include arches, columns, centerpieces, balloon drops, sculptures, and balloon bouquets. With the increased aptitude for balloon twisting as well as balloon stacking, the rise of the deco-twister manifests itself as the combination of stacking techniques as well as twisting techniques to create unique and interesting balloon decor option.

Decorative rainbow colored arches made of party balloons used at the gay pride parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Parada Gay em Sampa.jpg
Decorative rainbow colored arches made of party balloons used at the gay pride parade in São Paulo, Brazil.

Party balloons are mostly made of a natural latex tapped from rubber trees, and can be filled with air, helium, water, or any other suitable liquid or gas. The rubber's elasticity makes the volume adjustable.

Twisting balloons can be used to create decor centerpieces for events and to create a more unique look than can be provided by foil balloons. Dopey Balloon Twisting Table Centerpiece for Rays Draft Room.jpg
Twisting balloons can be used to create decor centerpieces for events and to create a more unique look than can be provided by foil balloons.

Often the term "Party Balloon" will refer to a twisting balloon or pencil balloon. These balloons are manipulated to create shapes and figures for parties and events, typically along with entertainment.

Filling the balloon with air can be done with the mouth, a manual or electric inflater (such as a hand pump), or with a source of compressed gas.

When rubber or plastic balloons are filled with helium so that they float, they typically retain their buoyancy for only a day or so, sometimes longer. The enclosed helium atoms escape through small pores in the latex which are larger than the helium atoms. Balloons filled with air usually hold their size and shape much longer, sometimes for up to a week.

Even a perfect rubber balloon eventually loses gas to the outside. The process by which a substance or solute migrates from a region of high concentration, through a barrier or membrane, to a region of lower concentration is called diffusion. The inside of balloons can be treated with a special gel (for instance, the polymer solution sold under the "Hi Float" brand) which coats the inside of the balloon to reduce the helium leakage, thus increasing float time to a week or longer.

Animal-shaped balloons Balloonsanimals.jpg
Animal-shaped balloons

Beginning in the late 1970s, some more expensive (and longer-lasting) foil balloons made of thin, unstretchable, less permeable metallised films such as Mylar (BoPET) started being produced. These balloons have attractive shiny reflective surfaces and are often printed with color pictures and patterns for gifts and parties. The most important attribute of metallised nylon for balloons is its lightweight, increasing buoyancy and its ability to keep the helium gas from escaping for several weeks. Foil balloons have been criticized for interfering with power lines. [2] [3]

Modelling and use in art

Balloon artists are entertainers who twist and tie inflated tubular balloons into sculptures such as animals (see balloon modelling). The balloons used for sculpture are made of extra-stretchy rubber so that they can be twisted and tied without bursting. Since the pressure required to inflate a balloon is inversely proportional to the diameter of the balloon[ citation needed ], these tiny tubular balloons are extremely hard to inflate initially. A pump is usually used to inflate these balloons.

Decorators may use helium balloons to create balloon sculptures. Usually the round shape of the balloon restricts these to simple arches or walls, but on occasion more ambitious "sculptures" have been attempted. It is also common to use balloons as table decorations for celebratory events. Balloons can sometimes be modeled to form shapes of animals. Table decorations normally appear with three or five balloons on each bouquet. Ribbon is curled and added with a weight to keep the balloons from floating away.

Drops and releases

Party balloons in Italy Units of Italy in Prato 3.jpg
Party balloons in Italy

A decorative use for balloons is in balloon drops. In a balloon drop, a plastic bag or net filled with air-inflated balloons is suspended from a fixed height. Once released, the balloons fall onto their target area below. Balloon drops are commonly performed at New Year's Eve celebrations and at political rallies and conventions, but may also be performed at celebrations, including graduations and weddings.

For decades, people have also celebrated with balloon releases. This practice has been discouraged by the balloon industry, as it has posed problematic for the environment and cities. In recent years, legislation, such as the California Balloon Law, has been enacted to enforce consumers and retailers to tether helium-filled foil (BoPET) balloons with a balloon weight. This ensures that the helium-filled balloons do not float into the atmosphere, which is both potentially injurious to animals, the environment, and power lines. Many states now have banned balloon releases.

It is becoming more common for balloons to be filled with air instead of helium, as air-filled balloons will not release into the atmosphere or deplete the earthly helium supply. There are numerous party games and school-related activities that can use air-filled balloons as opposed to helium balloons. When age-appropriate, these activities often include the added fun of blowing the balloons up. In many events, the balloons will contain prizes, and party-goers can pop the balloons to retrieve the items inside.

Publicity use

Balloons are used for publicity at major events. Screen printing processes can be used to print designs and company logos onto the balloons. Custom built printers inflate the balloon and apply ink with elastic qualities through a silk screen template. In January 2008, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York organized a display of 4,200 red balloons outside the United Nations Headquarters. [4]

Also in the 1950s at the start of the Cold War, activists in Western Europe uses balloons for propaganda purposes that would float east over Eastern Europe, which would release newspapers and pamphlets. Today, South Korean activists are using the same balloon method to get information to those in North Korea. [5]

Paolo Scannavino set the record of 11 for the most giant balloons entered in 2 minutes. [6]

Water balloons

Water balloons are thin, small rubber balloons filled with a liquid, usually water, instead of a gas, and intended to be easily broken. They are usually used by children, who throw them at each other, trying to get each other wet, as a game, competition, or practical joke. By forcing water out the open end of a water balloon, it is possible to use it as a makeshift water gun.

Solar balloons

Solar balloons are thin, large balloons filled with air that is heated by the sun in order to decrease its density to obtain lift.

Balloon rockets

Balloons are often deliberately released, creating a so-called balloon rocket. Balloon rockets work because the elastic balloons contract on the air within them, and so when the mouth of the balloon is opened, the gas within the balloon is expelled out, and due to Newton's third law of motion, the balloon is propelled forward. This is the same way that a rocket works. [7]

Flying machines

Hot air balloons, San Diego, California Luftballong.jpg
Hot air balloons, San Diego, California

Balloons filled with hot air or a buoyant gas have been used as flying machines since the 18th century. The earliest flights were made with hot air balloons using air heated with a flame, or hydrogen as the lifting gas. Later, coal gas and later still helium were used. An unpowered balloon travels with the wind. A balloon which has an engine to propel it is called a dirigible balloon or airship.

Medicine

Angioplasty is a surgical procedure in which very small balloons are inserted into blocked or partially blocked blood vessels near the heart. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to clear or compress arterial plaque, and to stretch the walls of the vessel, thus preventing myocardial infarction. A small stent can be inserted at the angioplasty site to keep the vessel open after the balloon's removal. [8]

Balloon catheters are catheters that have balloons at their tip to keep them from slipping out. For example, the balloon of a Foley catheter is inflated when the catheter is inserted into the urinary bladder and secures its position. [9]

Insertion of balloons subsequently filled with air or liquid can be used to stop bleeding in hollow internal organs such as stomach or uterus.

History

Man has intentionally filled bladders, especially actual animal bladders, with air since prehistory. In Ancient Greece, these had a number of recorded uses. The Aztecs inflated cat intestines to make shapes to present as sacrifices to the gods. [10] By the 18th century, people were inflating balloons of cloth or canvas with hot air and sending it aloft, the Montgolfier brothers going to far as to experiment with first animals in 1782, and then when altitude did not kill them, human beings in 1783.

The first hydrogen-filled gas balloon was flown in the 1790s. A century later the first hydrogen-filled weather balloons were launched in France.

The first modern, rubber balloons on record were made by Michael Faraday in 1824. He used these to contain gasses he was experimenting with, especially hydrogen. By 1825 similar balloons were being sold by Thomas Hancock, but like Faraday's they came disassembled, two circles of soft rubber. The user was expected to lay the circles one on top of the other, then rub their edges until the soft, gummy rubber stuck, leaving the powdered inner part loose for inflation. [11] Modern, preassembled balloons were being sold in the US by the early 20th century.

Safety and environmental concerns

An illustration of the degradation of the latex polymer in aquatic environments Slide3Chem.jpg
An illustration of the degradation of the latex polymer in aquatic environments

There has been some environmental concern over metallised nylon balloons, as they do not biodegrade or shred as rubber balloons do. Release of these types of balloons into the atmosphere is considered harmful to the environment. This type of balloon can also conduct electricity on its surface and released foil balloons can become entangled in power lines and cause power outages. [12]

Released balloons can land anywhere, including on nature reserves or other areas where they can pose a hazard to animals through ingestion or entanglement. Because of the potential harm to wildlife and the effect of litter on the environment, some jurisdictions even legislate to control mass balloon releases. Legislation proposed in Maryland, US, was named after Inky, a pygmy sperm whale who needed six operations after swallowing debris, the largest piece of which was a Mylar balloon. [13] [14] The Balloon Council, a trade organization that represents the interests of balloon businesses, claims that there is no documentary evidence to suggest that the death of any sea mammal has been attributed to foil balloons as a sole cause, to date. [15] In the United Kingdom, foil balloons sold at major theme parks and zoos have balloon weights attached to help prevent accidental release into the environment. [16]

Anthony Andrady says that releases of latex balloons that descend into the sea pose a serious ingestion and/or entanglement hazard to marine animals because balloons exposed floating in seawater deteriorate much more slowly than those exposed in air. [17] Balloon manufacturers will often state that a latex balloon is perfectly safe to release into the environment as it is made from a natural substance and will biodegrade over time. However, a latex balloon can take up to a year to degrade if it lands in the sea and during this time it is possible for a marine animal to ingest the balloon and die from slow starvation if its digestive system is blocked.

NABAS (National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers), an organisation that styles itself "The Balloon and Party Professionals Association" and represents the UK balloon industry, [18] publishes guidelines for people holding balloon releases. [19]

When balloons eventually return to the ground, they begin the degradation process. Latex balloons are the most used because of their ability to biodegrade. The problem with this is that it can take at least 4 weeks to show substantial degradation of the polymer in the environment, and around 6 months in aquatic environments. [20] [21] This issue can have an effect on the wildlife on both land and in aquatic systems because animals will confuse deflated balloons as food, nesting material, or simply something to play with. When that happens, it can lead to negative effects for the animals. For example, a bird will use a deflated balloon as a component for its nest. When the eggs hatch, they will get tangled in the balloon and that can lead to death. [22] Another environmental problem with latex balloons is not the effects the balloons have on the environment once they are decomposed, but when they are being made. When latex is being produced, it produces greenhouse gases, such as CO2, CH4, N2O. This is becoming an increasing problem, especially in Thailand which is responsible for 35% of the worlds natural rubber production. [23]

Physics

Air pressure

Contemporary illustration of the first flight by Professor Jacques Charles, December 1, 1783 Jacques Charles Luftschiff.jpg
Contemporary illustration of the first flight by Professor Jacques Charles, December 1, 1783

Once inflated with regular, atmospheric air, the air inside the balloon will have a greater air pressure than the original atmospheric air pressure. [24]

Air pressure, technically, is a measurement of the amount of collisions against a surface at any time. In the case of balloon, it's supposed to measure how many particles at any in any given time space collide with the wall of the balloon and bounce off. However, since this is near impossible to measure, air pressure seems to be easier described as density. The similarity comes from the idea that when there are more molecules in the same space, more of them will be heading towards a collision course with the wall.

The first concept of air pressure within a balloon that is necessary to know is that air pressures "try" to even out. With all the bouncing against the balloon wall (both interior and exterior) there will be a certain amount of expansion/contraction. As air pressure itself is a description of the total forces against an object, each of these forces, on the outside of the balloon, causes the balloon to contract a tiny bit, while the inside forces cause the balloon to expand. With this knowledge, one would immediately assume that a balloon with high air pressure inside would expand based on the high amount of internal forces, and vice versa. This would make the inside and outside air pressures equal.

However, balloons have a certain elasticity to them that needs to be taken into account. The act of stretching a balloon fills it with potential energy. When it is released, the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy and the balloon snaps back into its original position, though perhaps a little stretched out. When a balloon is filled with air, the balloon is being stretched. While the elasticity of the balloon causes tension that would have the balloon collapse, it is also being pushed back out by the constant bouncing of the internal air molecules. The internal air has to exert force not only to counteract the external air to keep the air pressures "even", but it also has to counteract the natural contraction of the balloon. Therefore, it requires more air pressure (or force) than the air outside the balloon wall. Because of this, when helium balloons are left and they float higher, as atmospheric pressure decreases, the air inside it exerts more pressure than outside it so the balloon pops from tension. In some cases, the helium leaks out from pores and the balloon deflates, falling down. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Urinary catheterization

In urinary catheterization a latex, polyurethane, or silicone tube known as a urinary catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra. Catheterization allows urine to drain from the bladder for collection. It may also be used to inject liquids used for treatment or diagnosis of bladder conditions. A clinician, often a nurse, usually performs the procedure, but self-catheterization is also possible. A catheter may be in place for long periods of time or removed after each use.

Inflatable object that can be inflated with a gas

An inflatable is an object that can be inflated with a gas, usually with air, but hydrogen, helium and nitrogen are also used. One of several advantages of an inflatable is that it can be stored in a small space when not inflated, since inflatables depend on the presence of a gas to maintain their size and shape. Function fulfillment per mass used compared with non-inflatable strategies is a key advantage. Stadium cushions, impact guards, vehicle wheel inner tubes, emergency air bags, and inflatable space structures employ the inflatable principle. Inflation occurs through several strategies: pumps, ram-air, billowing, and suction.

Buoyancy compensator (diving) Diving equipment for controlling buoyancy by volume adjustment

A buoyancy compensator, also called a buoyancy control device, BC, BCD, stabilizer, stabilisor, stab jacket, wing or ABLJ depending on design, is a piece of diving equipment with an inflatable bladder which is worn by divers to establish neutral buoyancy underwater and positive buoyancy on the surface, when needed. The buoyancy is controlled by adjusting the volume of air in the bladder. The bladder is filled with ambient pressure gas from the diver's primary breathing gas cylinder via a low-pressure hose from the regulator first stage, directly from a small cylinder dedicated to this purpose, or from the diver's mouth through the oral inflation valve.

Surface marker buoy A buoy towed by a scuba diver to indicate the divers position

A surface marker buoy, SMB or simply a blob is a buoy used by scuba divers, at the end of a line from the diver, intended to indicate the diver's position to people at the surface while the diver is underwater. Two kinds are used; one (SMB) is towed for the whole dive, and indicates the position of the dive group throughout the dive, and the other, a delayed surface marker buoy, DSMB or decompression buoy, is deployed towards the end of the dive as a signal to the surface that the divers have started to ascend, and where they are going to surface. Both types can also function as a depth reference for controlling speed of ascent and accurately maintaining depth at decompression stops. Surface marker buoys are also used by freedivers in open water, to indicate the approximate position of the diver when submerged. They may also be used to support a catch bag or fish stringer by underwater hunters and collectors. A DSMB is considered by recreational scuba divers and service providers to be a highly important item of safety equipment, yet its use is not part of the entry level recreational diver training for all training agencies, and there are significant hazards associated with incompetent use.

Balloon (aeronautics) type of aerostat that remains aloft due to its buoyancy

In aeronautics, a balloon is an unpowered aerostat, which remains aloft or floats due to its buoyancy. A balloon may be free, moving with the wind, or tethered to a fixed point. It is distinct from an airship, which is a powered aerostat that can propel itself through the air in a controlled manner.

Gas balloon balloon filled with gas less dense than air

A gas balloon is a balloon that rises and floats in the air because it is filled with a gas lighter than air. When not in flight, it is tethered to prevent it from flying away and is sealed at the bottom to prevent the escape of gas. A gas balloon may also be called a Charlière for its inventor, the Frenchman Jacques Charles. Today, familiar gas balloons include large blimps and small latex party balloons. For nearly 200 years, well into the 20th century, manned balloon flight utilized gas balloons before hot-air balloons became dominant. Without power, heat or fuel, untethered flights of gas balloons depended on the skill of the pilot. Gas balloons have greater lift for a given volume, so they do not need to be so large, and they can stay up for much longer than hot air balloons.

Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility

The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) is a NASA facility responsible for providing launch, tracking and control, airspace coordination, telemetry and command systems, and recovery services for unmanned high-altitude balloons. Customers of the CSBF include NASA centers, universities, and scientific groups from all over the world.

Personal flotation device Equipment to help the wearer keep afloat in water

A personal flotation device is a piece of equipment designed to assist a wearer to keep afloat in water. The wearer may be either conscious or unconscious.

Balloon modelling

Balloon modelling or balloon twisting is the shaping of special modelling balloons into almost any given shape, often a balloon animal. People who create balloon animals and other twisted balloon sculptures are called Twisters, Balloon Benders and Balloon Artists. Twisters often perform in restaurants, at birthday parties, fairs and at public and private events or functions.

Foley catheter

In urology, a Foley catheter is a flexible tube that a clinician passes through the urethra and into the bladder to drain urine. It is the most common type of indwelling urinary catheter.

Toy balloon Small balloon used as a childrens toy

A toy balloon or party balloon, is a small balloon mostly used for decoration, advertising and children's toys. Toy balloons are usually made of rubber or aluminized plastic, and inflated with air or helium. They come in a great variety of sizes and shapes, but are most commonly 10 to 30 centimetres in diameter. Toy balloons are not considered to include "sky lanterns", although these too are or were used as child toys in some parts of the world.

A balloon rocket is a rubber balloon filled with air or other gases. Besides being simple toys, balloon rockets are a widely used as a teaching device to demonstrate basic physics.

Ceiling balloon

A ceiling balloon also called a pilot balloon or pibal, is used by meteorologists to determine the height of the base of clouds above ground level during daylight hours. In the past, and sometimes today, a theodolite was used to track the balloon in order to determine the speed and direction of winds aloft. The principle behind the ceiling balloon is that timing of a balloon with a known ascent rate from its release until it disappears into the clouds can be used to calculate the height of the bottom of the clouds.

Inflatable single-line kite one of the few modern inventions in the world of kite design

The ram-air inflatable single-line kite is one of the few modern inventions in the world of kite design. Although Francis Rogallo's early kite patents had ram-air members in the claims, Domina Jalbert's parafoil ram-air wing, patented in 1944, emphatically changed the kite airscape for inflatable kites.

A lifting gas or lighter than air gas is a gas that has a lower density than normal atmospheric gases and rises above them as a result. It is required for aerostats to create buoyancy, particularly in lighter-than-air aircraft, which include free balloons, moored balloons, and airships. Only certain lighter than air gases are suitable as lifting gases. Dry air has a density of about 1.29 g/L at standard conditions for temperature and pressure (STP) and an average molecular mass of 28.97 g/mol, and so lighter than air gases have a density lower than this.

Balloon release Releasing gas-filled balloons into the air

A balloon release is a ceremonial event in which a number of hydrogen- or helium-filled balloons are unleashed into the sky. Balloon releases can be done as a prayer ceremony, to create a photo opportunity, to raise awareness of a cause or campaign, or as a competitive long-distance race.

California Balloon Law

In 1990 the California State Legislature passed SB 1990, enacting a Balloon Law to regulate the sales and use of helium-filled foil balloons. The law was passed in an effort to reduce power outages due to metallized Mylar or foil balloons.

The Constant Pressure System, or CPS, is a powerful design used for certain water guns. CPS water guns are powered by a rubber bladder inflated with water. It is patented by Lonnie Johnson as "bladder water gun."

Ureteric balloon catheter

A ureteric balloon catheter is a balloon catheter intended for treating strictures of the ureter. In fact it is a double J stent on which a balloon is mounted. It is connected to a delivery device (pusher) to introduce it from the bladder into the ureter. The system comprises a non-return valve device, and a pusher with a stylet and two ports. The sideport is for injecting contrast agent to inflate the balloon, while the straight port is for the guidewire. The catheter has a relatively large-diameter central lumen and a shaft of 2 mm. The balloon is in two sections: a long narrow section or shaft and a larger cranial bulb. The larger cranial bulb prevents distal migration, while the longer narrow section maintains the increased diameter of a predilated stricture in the ureter section.

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Further reading

"Stories Behind Everyday Things"; New York: Reader's Digest, 1980.