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Physics of a hot air balloon



I was thinking about what to write next for my blog and couldn't think of a thing. Then, suddenly it hit me, how in the world does a hot air balloon work? And of course the answer is physics! I have come to learn that there are 3 main components to a hot air balloon. The burner which is in charge of heating the air, the balloon envelope that holds the air, and the obvious basket to hold the passengers.

Within the basket there are propane tanks that are stored as liquid rather than gas. When the burner is started, the propane goes to the heating coil which is then ignited by the pilot light. The metal which is heated is what changes the propane from a liquid to a gas. (In order to make the flame of the hot air balloon) I have also learned that the balloon can only go up to a certain altitude before the air gets thinner and buoyany force becomes too weak to support it. The buoyant force which is equal to the air displaced allows us to know that the bigger the envelope in your balloon, the higher the balloon will be able to go. The reasoning behind using a wicker basket is because it's light weight, flexible, and is very absorbent of energy to further help the landing.

Along with just learning how the hot air balloon works altogether, I also was left wondering how it moved horizontally. The pilots of the balloons move the balloon with the wind, since they can obviously move along with it. By changing how high they are in the balloon, the speed is able to increase the speed with the increase of the altitude. Considering, closer to the earth there is more pressure, it limits the altitude a hot air balloon can go. There are also other factors taking place such as gravity which is weighing down the balloon.

Learning all of these factors helped answer my questions revolving around the working details of the hot air balloons. :goodjob:


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Hot air balloons are so cool! i want to ride in one someday! I also always wondered how a hot air balloon works..thanks for explaining it! 

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Thats interesting I never thought the altitude of a balloon could be affected so much, I always believed like in the wizard of oz, hot air balloons could take you to imaginary lands.

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