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ONCE THE BALLOON HAS GONE UP

Demonstrate how molecule size affects its ability to escape from a balloon

Suitable For

Grade 7

Difficulty

1

Time Required

 <2 Weeks

Supervision

Advised

What’s it about?

Balloons are a very popular gift amongst people all over the world. Many people give balloons to congratulate someone, say happy birthday or get well soon, but unfortunately, they do not last forever and all balloons deflate over time. Helium balloons are even more fun, but they always seem to deflate even faster than regular balloons!

‘Polymers’ are compounds made of very long chains of molecules which often have ‘plastic’ or ‘rubber’ properties. A regular ‘latex’ balloon is made up of long polymer chains, giving it its elastic properties, but this also make the substance a bit porous. In this science experiment, you will test how the size of a molecule affect its ability to escape from a balloon:

Topics covered

Polymer, Porous, Diffusion

What will I need?

  • 4x REGULAR LATEX BALLOONS
  • LARGE BUCKET
  • TAP WATER
  • YARD STICK
  • FRIEND
  • HELIUM GAS SOURCE

Procedure (Method)

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

Latex balloons are made out of natural rubber extracted from trees. The walls of a latex balloon have microscopically small pores or holes in them. Even though these holes cannot be seen by the human eye, they do exist and they are a lot larger than Helium atoms, hence the Helium atoms can easily escape from the inside of the balloon.

Balloons filled with air hold their volume for a much longer period, because air particles, consisting mostly of Nitrogen (N2) and Oxygen (O2), are larger than Helium (He) particles, therefore causing them to escape more slowly than the Helium particles. This process whereby the particles escape through the latex, is referred to as ‘diffusion’. The material the balloon is made from, such as the ‘latex’ or foil, affects how long the balloon will stay inflated. The more porous the material, the quicker the Helium or air particles will escape from it.

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