How Hot air balloons Work?

Essay by shariq1992 January 2009

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Hot air balloons are an ingenious application of basic scientific principles. Here we will show exactly how the balloon works, what makes it rise and fall and how a pilot is able to manoeuvre it when it is in the air.

The basis of how the balloon works is that warmer air rises in cooler air. This is because hot air is lighter than cool air as it has less mass per unit of volume. Mass can be defined by the measure of how much matter something contains. The actual balloon (called an envelope) has to be so large as it takes such a large amount of heated air to lift it off the ground. For example, to lift 1000 pounds worth of weight you would need almost 65,000 cubic feet of heated air! To help keep the balloon in the air and rising, hot air needs to be propelled upwards into the envelope using the burner (see separate section on burners for more information.)A

hot air balloon is made up of 3 main parts:The EnvelopeThe actual fabric balloon which holds the airThe BurnerThe unit which propels the heat up inside the envelopeThe BasketWhere the passengers and pilot standThe burner uses propane gas to heat up the air in the envelope to move the balloon off the ground and into the air. The pilot must keep firing the burner at regular intervals throughout the flight to ensure that the balloon continues to be stable. Naturally, the hot air will not escape from the hole at the very bottom of the envelope as firstly, hot air rises and secondly, the buoyancy keeps it moving up.

The controls for piloting a balloon are actually extremely simple....

1 - To move the balloon upwards - the pilot opens up the propane valve which...