Hydrogen Explosions (slow motion) – Periodic Table of Videos

we’ve been using a high-speed camera to film hydrogen balloons exploding ha ha ha ha I like you Neil it’s given me the answer or nearly give me the answer to a question that’s been puzzling me for years ever since our first element video we’ve been using the match on the stick to blow up balloons of hydrogen and the thing that’s always puzzled me is that when they blow up the flame has a reddish color and it’s well known that hydrogen when it burns for example in a Bunsen burner or something like that gives an almost colourless flame so why should the balloon give a red flame or reddish flame when it blows up and I came up with an idea on one of our videos that it may be the rubber of the balloon that’s burning recently I got an email from one of our viewers called Paul who said he thought I was wrong and he thought that the hydrogen in the balloon and the oxygen in the air are not properly mixed so when the hydrogen starts burning there’s much more hydrogen than oxygen and the heat from the first part of the flame heats up the rest of the gas and the hydrogen gas gives out red light we were quite interested to see if this was really true and the obvious way to do is to film the balloon going off in high speed to see what happens to the rubber when you light the balloon when we looked at the video it was extraordinary the rubber disappears and flies off into the air before the gas really starts burning at all and you can see the flames slowly going through this massive gas sort of balloon shaped mass of gas so the orange color cannot be anything to do with the rubber from the balloon because that’s flown away in one of our videos it goes up towards the ceiling so I was wrong and it’s always good for a scientist to be proved wrong but now you’ve got to do an experiment to see what it might be and Paul suggested an experiment he said try burning a balloon filled with a proper mixture of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen water is h2o so what you need is twice as much hydrogen as oxygen this is what chemists call a stoichiometric mixture that’s a mixture that’s just the right amount to give you the product the problem is of course that it explodes with a very loud bang and we would quite frightened you know it might might be bad for all sorts of reasons since the gas is already mixed the reaction will go faster so you get much bigger shock wave so we’ve tried the experiment and let’s watch what happens if you look carefully you can see that as the flame touches the balloon the reaction goes really fast the balloon lights up like an electric lightbulb before it’s lost its shape at all and then it slowly spreads the bright light which is much brighter than with the hydrogen by itself because the reactions going faster so the temperature goes up much higher and what’s interesting is that the flame separates into two parts from the point where you add the match this is actually quite a well-known effect when there gas explosions in people’s houses when they light a match when there’s gas in their house very often the person who likes the match is okay because the explosion spreads away from them and it does huge damage and they left in the middle feeling a bit stupid because the house has gone it really looks as if Paul is right that is that the reaction goes completely differently I really feel that I have learned something about this reaction I was talking to quite a senior physicist yesterday over lunch and he was amazed that the balloon would burst and the rubber disappeared before the hydrogen caught fire and so was I because it all happened so fast that normally one doesn’t see this and your gut feeling is that hydrogen explodes easily so of course it’ll blow up long before the balloon does

99 thoughts on “Hydrogen Explosions (slow motion) – Periodic Table of Videos

  1. The balloon is different because of the pressure. I know it isn't much pressure, but have you tied doing the experiment with a less inflated balloon?

  2. okay i got a question that should be pretty simple… so when it reacts, the matter expanding is basically water(steam) correct? at any point in the reaction is it possible for the water to form into a liquid however small, and then gas which causes expansion.. just curious if lil batches of "liquid" form in this reaction, if there is high pressure, it should allow moments of liquid to not "instantly" evaporate?

  3. I have a hypothesis as to why the flame is red. On the inside of a balloon there is a fine powder to prevent the balloon from sticking and tearing when inflated so as the balloon pops it would be thrown into the flame and possibly burning tremendously quickly thus causing the red flame.

  4. i ruled out the balloon theory immediately and in doing so realized i have almost a common sense on how things behave in slow motion. It's kind of neat having the benefit of a relatively recent birth.   

  5. Is the balloons mechanical elastic effect quicker, because the hydrogen fuel requires time to mix with oxygen in the air?

  6. Snaxti: It would depend on where you do it. Jupiter's upper atmosphere (the cloud  tops and stuff we can see) is pretty cold so the reaction there would happen very slowly, if at all. Further down, it warms up gradually. You'd also need a spark or something to get it started, but IIRC there is quite a bit of lightning in the clouds. Once the oxygen was all used up, it's done. No blowing up planets.

  7. I think this source of the colored flame is actually the solid powder lubricant that nearly all balloons are sold with. This is often talc or cornstarch, either of which could color the flame yellowish-orange (talc can have sodium or calcium impurities). It is known that metal salts or boron compounds can be added to balloons to change the color of the explosion as well. Clearly the flame produced by the stoichiometric mixture in a balloon shown here is much brighter than that of a stoichiometric flame in a HHO torch, so it has to be more than just the ratio.

    I propose washing the balloons very thoroughly with water, and then testing both pure hydrogen and mixed gases with the same high-speed footage.

  8. all fire needs oxygen. The balloon with H in it takes time for the O to get to it so that is why it doesn't blow up as quick as the one mixed with both H O.. this is kind of a simple concept, I'm 14 but the color is kind of strange to me at first but then I realize that it's the temperature at with the H is burning

  9. Well, I think what may be happening in the case of the hydrogen burning solo and the H2O gas mixture burning, the nano second that the heat of the explosion hits the ambient air, you're basically getting what would happen in the combustion chamber of a car engine, sans the amount of compression, and the red color is happening because the surrounding ambient nitrogen and oxygen mixture that is "air" is being combusted. And such a combustion event would create a reddish/orangish flame, would it not?

  10. Perhaps the reason why it turns yellow is because carbon is donated to the reaction via carbon dioxide and monoxide produced through the candle's burning? Perhaps trying to initiate it with an electrical spark would show whether or not the presence of carbon would be a factor.

    Another thing to consider is that maybe the notion that hydrogen burns almost invisibly could be inaccurate? A Bunsen burner's flame is blue when adjusted properly, and likely this could have been the case for when they decided to see what color hydrogen burns.

  11. I wonder if the balloon contracts faster than the reactions since it is under such high elastic tension. Perhaps the reaction could tried at different internal pressures to see if the speed varies depending on the potential of the rubber.

    Aside: I just discovered the periodic videos your team made and I was compelled to seek a slow version of the balloon experiment. I'm delighted that you had the same inclination, and that the Smarter Every Day guys joined in. This is the perfection which the internet achieves from time to time, and I couldn't be more thankful.

    thanks for the insight,

  12. The colour is exactly the same as almost all nuclear blasts. How can a nuclear blast be the same colour as this pure hydrogen explosion?

  13. My guess to the color of the flame is that it matches the energy level of the flame on the match, a possible test would be to detonate using a blue flame to see if the reactants can carry out the explosion in a higher energy state / flame color that is blue
    great video thank you

  14. concerning the exploding balloons and bubbles. unless i'm mistaken I think balloons are treated with starch on the inside to keep them from sticking to themselves. Also, the bubbles slowly evaporate, meaning whatever chemicals the bubble is made of goes into the air around it and inside the bubble.

    Not sure what starch and soap bubble stuff looks like when it's burningn, but it might contribute to the color shift.

  15. This Hydrogen seems quite estrange to me. From what I know, Hydrogen burns Red in premixed flames, but this burns yellow giving me the idea of soot formation… I see a yellow flame, but this makes not sense to me.

  16. i think the oils the laytex or rubber gives off when its heated of cooled mite mix with the gas or that the powder coating in the bollon is mixed with the gas cause the gas to turn red or yellow

  17. 2:45
    "Try burning a balloon filled with a proper mixture of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen."
    You mean exploding.

  18. 4:46 What? You guys blind? He's wrong too!
    He said that the unburnt H is heated up becaus of lack of oxygen. He proposed a 2:1 mixture expecting it would bi colorless or dim.
    Actually the explosion became much brighter. The obvious conclusion is that it's red/orange because the heat of the reaction heats it up enough. (black body radiation) And it's brighter and yellow/white with the 2:1 mixture because the reaction is faster and the temperature increases more.

  19. How fast is the rate of reaction of hydrogen and oxygen at a high temperature, and HOW can you DECREASE the rate of reaction so that its more fluid rather than just a rapid detonation.

  20. It would have been spectacular if this balloon was filled with a Hydrogen/Oxygen gasses at a ratio of 2:1 (two parts Hydrogen and onw part Oxygen to yield. water molecules upon ignition).

  21. I think you're right. Perhaps the hydrogen gas dissolved some of the volatile rubber compound. Resulting a carbon orange flame.

  22. The red color that often occurs is still unexplained and most interesting. Suggest using another substance instead of latex as the envelope, perhaps waxed paper? And for combustion processes chemical engineers, like me, always specify excess oxygen. The 50-50 mix of oxygen with hydrogen was described to me as the most explosive. Would like to see that next time as well. Have loved your series since Elements Organized way back in the 80's
    Bruce Williamson

  23. How would you double check to see if the guy that sent him the email was correct? Would you fill the ballon with hydrogen in a vacuum chamber?

  24. Could it be a more accurate comparison to measure how much air was in the ballon when filled with hydrogen?

  25. Interior of the baloons is often coated with substances that prevent it from sticking on the inside. These might be burning with hydrogen and give out this yellow light.

  26. But…why is the color of the explosion yellow? Nether hydrogen nor oxygen should emit an yellow light, right?

  27. I've heard some kind of sound in the beginning, was that "he sound of hydrogen" (don't remember who made it)

  28. The mixed-gas balloons would make interesting light sources for portrait photography of particularly steady-nerved subjects.

  29. The yellow looks a lot like the yellow from sodium emission. Wash out the powder from inside the balloon, and see if you still get the color. You could also film a difffraction grating illuminated by the flame, to see specifically if it's the sodium D line.

  30. Hello! I got a question about Hydrogen. Is hydrogen a gas in its normal state, what's its temperature? What happens if a liquid hydrogen is mixed with helium? If they can be mix together what are the temperature, boiling points, and melting points after they are mixed. And what will happen if you heat the solution at 1500`C – 2500`C(degree C)?

  31. Hello! I got a question about Hydrogen. Is hydrogen a gas in its normal state, what's its temperature? What happens if a liquid hydrogen is mixed with helium? If they can be mix together what are the temperature, boiling points, and melting points after they are mixed. And what will happen if you heat the solution at 1500`C – 2500`C(degree C)?

  32. I think science learning through a highly categorized field is highly inefficient as knowledge gets deeper. Every learning one should learn whatever they can from everything necessary, because as a assumed and working perfectly so far, i.e. universal law dictate: "everything is connected" , therefore reasoning dictate:"learning 1 thing connect with the others."
    From my observation on rubber burning and self-trained experimentation taking place in my mind, I can hypothesise that baloon explode in short time, the rubber have to take longer time to be melted before combustion takes place. Melting keeps temperature relatively constant as vaporization take place. and rubber vapor takes even longer time to be concentrated for hydrogen to seconarily combust the vapor …

  33. i think the color might be because the hydrogen is low grade. i think they sometimes use propane or methane to flush the equipment to remove gases like oxygen. i think the color is created by the combustion of contaminants which create glowing carbon particles like in a candle flame. perhaps try electrolyzing your own hydrogen for comparison

  34. In the non mixture balloon it's probably the vacuum of air as oxygen is pulled into the hydrogen reaction. That's why the balloon is pulled into a void above the reaction.

  35. Can the colours observed in this set of experiments explain the colours observed in the Hindenberg accident in 1937 – which was a hydrogen air ship, that caught fire and burnt with a yellow flame. At the time it was said that the flame colour had more to do with the envelope than the hydrogen.

  36. when i have lit hydrogen balloons indoors it almost blew my ears out of my head not to mention blowing out the windows why DO YOU THINK YOUR BALLOON EXPLOSIONS ARE SO WEAK?

  37. When he says 2 parts H and 1 part O, he means by mole, right? Not by volume? (As an O atom is like 15x bigger than an H atom)

  38. The Hydrogen in the balloon is under pressure ,when released it expands outwards in all directions and mixes with air which gives the red color flame

  39. Probably too late to expect any sort of an answer but I always question as to how Hydrogen EXPLODES ? I question this because when Hydrogen is ignited it should IMPLODE and this clearly is not the case we can see ? I also notice that in the last clip that from the H2O ignition there was a body of matter which looked like a tiny star starts to travel in an upward direction then just stays suspended in mid air, was that water I wonder ?

  40. But the balloon with the proper H to O mixture upon ignition, still had a very yellow-orange color flame, instead of blue, or nearly colorless, and this was not explained in the video.

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