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The Curious Case of the Xenon Balloon

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When you fill balloons with gases of different weights, the balloons will fall (or rise) at different speeds. British chemist Professor Martyn Poliakoff wanted a xenon balloon for his office, expecting that, due to xenon’s heavy atoms, the balloon would stay inflated for a long time.

So he asked his University of Nottingham / Periodic Table of Videos team to fill a few balloons with the remaining gases in their stockroom: Xenon, krypton, and neon, plus nitrogen as a control for a two-part experiment.

As expected, when they were all dropped, the xenon fell at a faster rate than the other balloons of equal size.

which gas-filled balloon is heaviest?
What did not go according to plan: How long a xenon balloon would stay inflated. Professor Poliakoff thought the xenon balloon would last longer than the others, but the opposite happened. Why?

He explains why he thought what he thought and why he was wrong in The Curious Case of the Xenon Balloon.

what's happening to the xenon?
Watch more balloon videos, more element videos, and more from Periodic Table of Videos:
• What happens to balloon animals in liquid nitrogen?
“Balloons look really weird when they resonate.”
• Recreating the Balloon House from Pixar’s Up
• Liquid Oxygen (slow motion)
• Why do ice cubes crack in drinks?

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