Naked Science Forum

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
16/04/2014 04:16:39

Author Topic: How do I weigh a Helium-Filled Balloon?  (Read 9342 times)


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4210
  • Live your life to the full!
    • View Profile
  • on: 29/05/2007 13:48:54
How do I weigh a balloon filled with Helium, to measure the mass of the rubber skin and the gas inside?

Put the scales upside-down?


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 701
  • I'm right there... inside neilep's head!
    • View Profile
  • Reply #1 on: 29/05/2007 14:51:28
basicly, a helium filled balloon has no weight.  The only way you can find the weight is by knowing the mass beforehand, and you would end up with a negative weight for the balloon.  Unless, of course, a passing helium balloon expert would come and correct me and my lighter-than-air cluelessness.


  • Guest
  • Reply #2 on: 29/05/2007 15:17:16
The problem you have is knowing the pressure the helium is under, and so knowing how much helium is within the balloon.  With any gas, if you know how much gas there is, it is a very simple calculation to know the mass of that gas - the relative masses of similar volumes of two gasses is always in proportion to their molecular weight.

Ofcourse, this is talking about mass rather than weight, and measured weight  depends on the environment you are weighing the thing in.  Weigh a helium balloon in air, and (assuming it has sufficient helium within the balloon, and not at too high a pressure or too low a temperature) it will have negative weight in air, but weight that same balloon in a hydrogen atmosphere and it will have positive weight.

If you weight the balloon in a helium atmosphere, and the pressure of the helium without is the same as the pressure of the helium within (which may not be easy to achieve, since the balloon itself, if it is a simply rubber type balloon, is likely to be put the helium under additional pressure no matter what the external pressure) then the only weight of the helium filled balloon would be that of the rubber balloon, since the helium within would balance the density of gas of the helium without.
« Last Edit: 29/05/2007 15:25:36 by another_someone »

Bored chemist

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 7639
    • View Profile
  • Reply #3 on: 29/05/2007 17:25:09
Weight isn't the same as mass.
Hop on board the space shuttle and ask them to put it in orbit, unless you have a license to drive it yourself (strictly you don't need to do this but it does show that you can "weigh" things in zero gravity too). Tie the baloon to the end of a spring (remember to take one with you ; its a long way to nip back for one) strech the spring an let go of it. The spring will now bounce back and to with a frequency that you can measure. This frequency can be related to the mass of the baloon.
OK That would be an utterly absurd way to weigh anything wouldn't it? Nobody would ever think of doing that would they? Except they do.

Less amusingly you could weigh the baloon on different days with different atmospheric pressures. Draw a line of "weight" (which would be negative) versus pressure and extrapolate to zero pressure.
Easier still would be to weigh the thing in a vacuum- but the baloon would burst (maybe some of the small mylar ones wouldn't).


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4264
    • View Profile
  • Reply #4 on: 31/05/2007 20:03:04
How do I weigh a balloon filled with Helium, to measure the mass of the rubber skin and the gas inside?
Put the scales upside-down?
1. Measure of volume V. You could do it putting the ballon in a container filled with water and weigh the water it remains.
2. Measure of its up push S. You attach the ballon to a spring and see how much the balloon is pushed up; you call this force "S".
3. Computing weigth
Balloon weigth = m*g  (m = mass, g = acc. of gravity)
Archimede's push = A = V*ρair*g
ρair = air density
you have:
S = A - m*g -->
--> m*g = A - S = V*ρair*g - S.

P.S. As you can see, the balloon's weigth m*g is not negative
« Last Edit: 31/05/2007 20:04:55 by lightarrow »


Naked Scientists Science Radio Show Home Who are The Naked Scientists Information about Naked Scientists
Naked Scientists Podcast Ask the Naked Scientists Podcast Question of the Week Podcast
Naked Science Articles Experiments to do at Home Science Discussion Forum
Science News Stories Answers to Science Questions Interviews with Famous Scientists

Information presented on this website is the opinion of the individual contributors and does not reflect the general views of the administrators, editors, moderators, sponsors, Cambridge University or the public at large.

Click here for the Naked Scientists PODCAST

The contents of this site are © The Naked Scientists® 2000-2014. The Naked Scientists® and Naked Science™ are registered trademarks.

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP SMF 2.0 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!