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Fire-proof Balloon

Safety Warning

Be careful with fire.



•    Two round balloons, not inflated
•    Matches
•    Water


  1. Inflate one of the balloons and tie it closed. Place 60 milliliters (¼ cup) of water in the other balloon, and then inflate it and tie it shut.

  2. Light a match and hold it under the first balloon. Allow the flame to touch the balloon. Observe.

  3. Light another match. Hold it directly under the water in the second balloon. Allow the flame to touch the balloon. Observe.

What's the Science?

Why does the balloon with no water break in the flame? The flame heats whatever is placed in it. It heats the rubber of both balloons. The rubber of the balloon without water becomes so hot, that it becomes too weak to resist the pressure of the air inside the balloon. How does the balloon with water in it resist breaking in the flame? When water inside the balloon is placed in the flame, the water absorbs most of the heat from the flame. Then, the rubber of the balloon does not become very hot. Because the rubber does not become hot, it does not weaken, and the balloon does not break.

Water is a particularly good absorber of heat. It takes a lot of heat to change the temperature of water. It takes ten times as much heat to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1˚C than it does to raise the temperature of 1 gram of iron by the same amount. On the other hand, when water cools, it releases a great deal of heat. This is why areas near oceans or other large bodies of water do not get as cold in winter as areas at the same latitude further inland.

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