How Do Hot Air Balloons Work?


Quick Answer

Hot-air balloons work based on the principle that hot air is lighter than cool air. By using a propane burner that heats the air inside the balloon, the air inside the envelope, or the top part of the balloon, becomes lighter than the surrounding air, causing the balloon to rise.

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Full Answer

The hot-air balloon is made up of many different parts which all function to help the balloon fly. The envelope of the balloon is made up of many smaller panels of nylon which connect the gores. Nylon is used because it is not only lightweight, but sturdy and melts at a high temperature. At the top of the envelope is a valve which can be opened by a pull cord to allow the release of hot air, so that the balloon can descend. The bottom of the balloon is called the skirt, and is coated with fire-resistant material so that the propane burner does not ignite the balloon. The basket of a hot-air balloon is usually made from wicker because the material is sturdy, flexible, and lightweight. The flexibility of the wicker allows for a gentle landing because it absorbs some of the energy of the impact. Propane tanks are placed inside the basket to fuel the propane burner.

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