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The No-Breath Balloon

This article first appeared in the 4/24/20 edition of the Davis Enterprise

The No-Breath Balloon

Colorful balloons. Image by user name Pipirafa, Wikimedia Commons courtesy.

The No-Breath Balloon


 By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise


This is another simple and very fun experiment anyone can do at home.  You will need a small bottle with a narrow top, such as a plastic water or soda bottle, balloons, vinegar, baking soda, teaspoon, and funnels recommended as well.


Take the cap off of the bottle and pour some vinegar into the bottle, use a funnel if needed.  A few ounces is all you need, I usually pour enough to cover the bottom, but less than a finger width.  Next, put 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda into the balloon, again a funnel will help with this.  If you use the same funnel, make sure to wipe it clean between substances or a reaction may occur.


Carefully wrap the opening of the balloon around the opening of the bottle, being careful that no baking soda spills in.  Make sure the balloon is wrapped completely around without any gaps or rips.  Then pick up the top of the balloon and dump in the baking soda.  What happens?!  If the experiment is successful, the balloon should be inflating on it's own, without your breath.


When vinegar and baking soda mix, they go through a couple quick reactions.  The first reaction is an acid-base reaction.  The acidic hydrogen ions in the vinegar react with the basic sodium and bicarbonates in the baking soda and creates the new chemicals of cabonic acid and sodum acetate.  Almost imediately the reaction changes to a decomposition reaction, where the chemicals then turn into water and carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide rises and fills the balloon making it inflate.


This reaction also creates heat.  If you touch the bottom of the bottle during the reaction, it will feel warmer than when you began.  Try this experiment with different amouts of each substance to see how your inflated balloon differs.  Make sure to rinse the bottle and balloon out between experiments, or use new ones, so you can start each experiment fresh without any remaining chemicals


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