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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Ballooning)
Balloons, like greeting cards or flowers, are given for special occasions.
Balloons, like greeting cards or flowers, are given for special occasions.

A balloon is a flexible bag normally filled with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide or air. Some balloons are purely decorative, others are used for specific purposes. Early balloons were made of dried animal bladders. Modern balloons can be made from materials such as rubber, latex, chloroprene or a nylon fabric. The modern balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in the 1800s, but mass production did not occur until the 1930s. A balloon's unique properties including its low density and relative inexpensivness have lead to a wide range of applications.

As flying machines

Main article: Balloon (aircraft)
Hot air balloons, San Diego, California
Hot air balloons, San Diego, California

Large balloons filled with hot air or buoyant gas have been used as flying machines since the 18th century. The earliest flights were made with hot air balloons that used either air or helium which were heated with a flame. Later airships were made that could be steered. Airships often had a more rigid structure and were sealed and unheated, boyuancy was provided by using hydrogen or helium.


As decoration or entertainment

Decorative arches made of party balloons.
Decorative arches made of party balloons.

Party balloons are mostly made of natural latex tapped from rubber trees and can be filled with air, helium, water, or any other suitable liquid or gas. The rubber allows for elasticity which makes the volume adjustable. Most of this rubber is made from recycled material, such as old tires and tennis shoes.

Filling with air is done with the mouth, with a manual or electric inflator (such as a hand pump) or a source of compressed air.

When rubber balloons are filled with helium so that they float they can hold their lift for only a short time depending on the size of the balloon, the time can vary from 18 hours to several days. The enclosed helium atoms escape through small pores in the latex which are larger than the helium atoms. Balloons filled with air can hold their size and shape much longer.

Even a perfect rubber membrane eventually loses the 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 (e.g. "Hi Float" brand) which coats the inside of the balloon to reduce the helium leakage, thus increasing float time to a week or longer. Latex rubber balloons are completely biodegradable.

Metallized nylon animal-shaped baloons
Metallized nylon animal-shaped baloons

Beginning in the late 1970s, some more expensive (and longer-lasting) foil balloons have been made of thin, unstretchable, impermeable metallized plastic films. These balloons have attractive shiny reflective surfaces and are often printed with colour pictures and patterns for gifts and parties. The most important attributes of metallized nylon for balloons are its light weight, increasing buoyancy and its ability to keep the helium gas from escaping for several weeks. However, there has been some environmental concern, since the metallized nylon does not biodegrade or shred as a rubber balloon does, and a helium balloon released into the atmosphere can travel a long way before finally bursting or deflating. 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 powerlines and cause power outages.

Released balloons can land almost anywhere, including on nature preserves or other areas where they pose a serious hazard to animals through ingestion or entanglement. Latex balloons are especially dangerous to sea creatures because latex retains its elasticity for 12 months or more when exposed to sea water rather than air.[1] Because of the harm to wildlife and the effect of litter on the environment, some jurisdictions even legislate to control mass balloon releases. Legislation proposed in Maryland, USA was named after Inky, a pygmy sperm whale who needed 6 operations after swallowing debris, the largest piece of which was a mylar balloon.[2][3]

Balloon artists are entertainers who twist and tie inflated tubular balloons into sculptures (see also balloon animal). The balloons used for balloon 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, these tiny tubular balloons are extremely hard to inflate initially. A pump is usually used to inflate these balloons.

Decorators may use hundreds of 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 tables decorations for celebratory events. Table decorations normally appear with 3 or 5 balloons on each bouquet. Ribbon is curled and added with a weight to keep the balloons from floating away.

Professional balloon party decorators use electronic equipment to enable the exact amount of helium to fill the balloon. For non-floating balloons air inflators are used. Professional quality balloons are used, these differ from most retail, packet balloons by being larger in size and made from 100% biodegradable latex.

Water balloons are thin, small rubber balloons intended to be easily broken. They are usually used by children, who throw them at each other, trying to get each other wet - see practical joke.

In the early 1980s, decorating for parties with balloons became easier with the introduction of Balloon Time helium balloon kits. Each kit comes with a set number of balloons, ribbon and a helium-filled tank allowing the user to fill up balloons quickly and pretty inexpensively. Kits typically cost anywhere from $20-$30.

See also: Balloon-carried light effect

In space

In 1984 the Russian space probe Vega released two aerobots into the atmosphere of Venus, from which signals were received for two days.

Balloons such as the Echo satellite are launched with a rocket. They are not the typical balloon, but simply large deployable structures.

In 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 can be inflated to clear or compress arterial plaque, and to stretch the walls of the vein. A small stent can be inserted in its place to keep the vessel open after the balloon's removal. See myocardial infarction.

Certain catheters have balloons at their tip to keep them from slipping out, for example the balloon of a Foley catheter is insufflated when the catheter is inserted into the urinary bladder and secures its position.


Manned Balloon

The altitude record for manned balloons is 34668 metres. It was made by Malcolm D. Ross and Victor E. Prather over the Gulf of Mexico in 1961.

Unmanned Balloon

The altitude record for unmanned balloons is (1991 edition of Guinness Book) 51.8 kilometres. The vehicle was a Winzen-Balloon with a volume of 1.35 million cubic metres, which was launched in October 1972 in Chico, California, USA. This is the greatest altitude ever reached by a flying object requiring the surrounding air. Higher altitudes can only be reached by ballistic vehicles such as rockets, rocket planes or projectiles.

In film

  • The Balloonatic (1923)
  • Balloon Land (1935)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Trottie True (1949)
  • Globex's messy break (1954)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
  • The Red Balloon (1956)
  • Stowaway in the Sky (1960)
  • Mysterious Island (1961)
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon'' (1962)
  • The Great Race (1965)
  • Uomo dei cinque palloni, L' (The Man with the Balloons) (1965)
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965)
  • Charlie Bubbles (1967)
  • The Great Bank Robbery (1969)
  • The Chipmunk Adventure (1987)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
1911 Britannica entry
  • Aerobot
  • Atlas (rocket)
  • Balloon-carried light effect
  • Balloon fetish
  • Balloon mail
  • Balloon animal
  • Balloon modelling
  • Captive balloon
  • Radiosonde
  • Rockoon
  • Speech balloon
  • List of altitude records reached by different aircraft types
  • List of balloon uses

External links

  • Balloon art instructions and gallery
  • Guide to Games & Activities with Balloons
  • how to decorate a room
  • Stratospheric balloons, history and present
  • National trade association for the UK balloon industry
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