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Q & A: Getting helium in a balloon

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
How do you put helium in a balloon?
- Bonnie (age 13)
Pickleswerth, Juneo, Alaska USA
A:
Helium usually comes in steel tanks (called "cylinders") and is stored under high pressure so you can fit a lot of it in a small space. Helium is mostly gotten from oil and gas drilling -- it comes up with the natural gas and can be separated out and sold in these steel tanks. They are about three feet tall and maybe eight inches in diameter.

The tanks have a valve on the top called a "regulator" which allows helium to be let out of the tank at a desired pressure, even though the pressure in the tank may be very very high. It's a lot like the regulators on scuba equipment. Another valve just opens and closes to allow the helium to flow.

A ballon is wrapped around a spigot, the open-shut valve is opened, and helium flows right into the ballon. You have to twist the end of the balloon so helium doesn't escape while you tie the knot at the bottom.

Tom

(published on 10/22/2007)

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