A balloon is a flexible bag filled with a type of
gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxideor air. Early balloons were made of dried animal bladders. Modern balloons can be made from materials such as rubber, latex, polychloropreneor a nylonfabric. Some balloons are purely decorative, while others are used for specific purposes such as meteorology, medical treatment, military defense, or transportation. A balloon's properties, including its low density and relatively low cost, have led to a wide range of applications.
It is believed the fiftheenth century African Americans made balloons out of paper. Japanese made
origamiair-filled objects; but they did not float. "Indians of Central and South America made balls balls of rubber much as we make ballons today" (Reader's Digest). In 1643 Evangelista Toricelli, an Italian physicist, showed air was some more than nothing. The Chinese,Japanese and Native American cultures led to beginning of the balloon .The first balloon was invented by Brazilian-born Portuguese priest, Bartolomeu de Gusmão, and the first public exhibition was to the Portuguese Court on August 8, 1709, in the hall of the Casa da Indiain Lisbon. The rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faradayin 1824; it was inflated with hydrogenand used in his experiments with that element. [Robertson, Patrick. "The Book of Firsts", Bramhall House, NY, 1978.] Rubber balloons were soon after sold for a penny a piece in parks and circuses in America. The more familiar latex balloons of today were first manufactured in London, 1847, by J.G. Ingram, [cite web |url= http://www.balloonsit.com/be/informacija.asp?id_meta_type=6&id_informacija=47|title= Balloon History|accessdate=2007-04-29 |format= HTML|publisher= BalloonsIT] but mass production did not occur until the 1930s.Fact|date=April 2007According to the Reader's Digest, children and adults send up a billion ballons each year.
Decoration or entertainment
Party balloons are mostly made of natural
latextapped 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. Fact|date=October 2007
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 balloons are filled with helium so that they float, they typically retain their buoyancy for only a day or so. 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.
Even a perfect rubber balloon 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 (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.
Beginning in the late 1970s, some more expensive (and longer-lasting) foil balloons have been made of thin, unstretchable, less permeable metalized plastic films. 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 metalized nylon for balloons is its light weight, increasing buoyancy and its ability to keep the helium gas from escaping for several weeks.
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, which differ from most retail packet balloons by being larger in size and made from 100% biodegradable latex.
Balloon modeling and balloons in art
Balloon artists are entertainers who twist and tie inflated tubular balloons into sculptures (see
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 proportionalto 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.
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, as a gameor practical joke. They can be used in competitions or games. They are often smaller than regular balloons.
Balloons are often deliberately released, creating so called
balloon rocketor rocket balloon. Rocket balloons work because the elastic balloons contract on the air within them, and so when the mouth of the balloon is left open, the gas within the balloon shoots out, and, due to , the balloon is propelled forward. This is fundamentally the same way that a rocket works. [cite web |url= http://physics.about.com/od/classroomphysics/ss/balloonrocket_5.htm|title= Scientific Explanation: Why the Rocket Balloon Works|accessdate=2007-04-29 |last= Zimmerman Jones|first= Andrew|format= HTML|work= How to Create a Rocket Balloon|publisher= ]
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 balloonsusing air heated with a flame, or hydrogen; later, helium was used.
Angioplastyis 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 stentcan be inserted at the angioplasty site to keep the vessel open after the balloon's removal. [cite web |url= http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002953.htm|title= Angioplasty|accessdate=2007-04-28 |last= Berger|first= Alan|coauthors= |date= 2006-05-30|format= HTML|work= Medical Encyclopedia|publisher= MedlinePlus] Balloon catheters are cathetersthat have balloons at their tip to keep them from slipping out. For example, the balloon of a Foley catheteris inflated when the catheter is inserted into the urinary bladderand secures its position. [cite web |url= http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blcatheter.htm|title= History of the Catheter - Balloon Catheter - Thomas Fogarty|accessdate=2007-04-28 |last= Bellis|first= Mary|format= HTML|work= About: Inventors|publisher= About]
afety and environmental concerns
There has been some environmental concern over metalized nylon ballons, as they don't biodegrade or shred as rubber balloons do, 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 power lines and cause power outages.Fact|date=September 2008
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 marine lifebecause latex retains its elasticity for 12 months or more when exposed to sea water rather than air. [cite conference
title=Plastics and Their Impacts in the Marine Environment
booktitle = Proceedings of the International Marine Debris Conference on Derelict Fishing Gear and the Ocean Environment
publisher=Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
accessdate = 2006-12-02] 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, USAwas named after Inky, a pygmy sperm whalewho needed 6 operations after swallowing debris, the largest piece of which was a mylarballoon. [cite web|title=MARP Sponsors Inky Legislation |url=http://www.aqua.org/oceanhealth_inkylegislation.html|publisher= Aquarium in Baltimore| accessdate=2006-12-01] [cite web| url=http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/balloonlaws.htm | title=Legislation regulating the release of balloons |publisher=Clean Virginia Waterways |accessdate=2006-12-01]
Balloon-carried light effect
List of balloon uses
"Reader's Digest: Stories Behind Everyday Things"New York:Reader's Digest,1980.
* [http://stratocat.com.ar/indexe.html Stratospheric balloons, history and present] Historical recopilation project on the use of stratospheric balloons in the scientific research, the military field and the aerospace activity
* [http://www.nabas.co.uk/ National trade association for the UK balloon industry]
* [http://www.balloonartists.com.au/ National trade association for the Australasian balloon industry]
* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/specialism/rem_spec_aero.htm Royal Engineers Museum] Royal Engineers and Aeronautics
* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/corpshistory/rem_corps_part8.htm#equip Royal Engineers Museum] Early British Military Ballooning (1863)
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