Heart-Shaped Balloons and Chemical Reactions

Happy Valentine’s Day! I don’t particularly agree with what the holiday’s become (read my column on page 7 that I wrote my second year in college), but I learned something new today because of it.

Early this morning, my awesome coworker presented me with a heart-covered goody bag with candy, a Scooby-Doo card and pencil and a heart shaped balloon.

My Balloon!
My Balloon!

I picked up the balloon to hang it and my coworker said: “Shake it! It gets cold!” The chemistry nerd in me perked up and decided to find out why. So here it is:

Balloon Reaction


Now, that may look like a lot of gibberish so here is what the chemical reaction looks like in real life:

Basically, each tiny, self-inflatable balloon contains baking soda and a vinegar package, ergo the compounds in them – sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid. When you pop the packet, the acid reacts with the baking soda causing the production of carbon dioxide, which fills up the balloon, causing it to inflate. That gas is also the reason, why those balloons don’t fly or float – carbon dioxide is denser than air.

Now, going back to the cold – the balloon cools off when shaken because the chemical reaction is endothermic, meaning it takes heat in to occur, leaving the surface cold.

Maybe I like Valentine’s Day after all – it’s got chemistry!


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