Today we’re going to make an aluminum can implode to show how powerful air pressure is. To do the experiment you’ll need an open flame (or something else that’s really hot), so make sure an adult helps out.
What you will need:
An aluminum can
PHOTO: MICHAEL KEARNEY, TAIPEI TIMES
► Fill the bowl with cold tap water. If the tap isn’t very cold, add some ice.
► Add about a tablespoon of water to the aluminum can.
► Using the tongs, hold the can over the stove. Wait for the water to boil and for copious amounts of steam to come out of the top of the can. Make sure an adult helps you with this part!
► Remove the can from the heat source, flip it over and dunk it in the cold water. The can should forcefully collapse.
(MICHAEL KEARNEY, STAFF WRITER)
Have you ever noticed the “whoosh” sound that happens when you open a bag of potato chips or anything else that is vacuum packed? That’s the sound of air rushing into the bag. The air inside the bag is at a lower pressure than the air outside the bag, so to attain equilibrium air rushes in.
1. aluminum n.
2. implode v.t./v.i.
內爆 (nei4 bao4)
3. tongs n.
火鉗 (huo3 qian2)
4. copious adj.
大量的 (da4 liang4 de5)
5. dunk v.t./v.i.
浸泡 (jin4 pao4)
6. argon n.
7. condense v.t./v.i.
凝結 (ning2 jie2)
8. vacuum n.
真空 (zhen1 kong1)
9. equilibrium n.
平衡 (ping2 heng2)
10. milliliter /ʻmɪlɪ,litɚ/ n.
毫升 (hao2 sheng1)
We’re surrounded by air. What is air made up of? How much pressure does air exert at sea level? Why aren’t all things just crushed by air? What happens to air molecules at high temperatures? How does an increase in temperature affect pressure?
Air is mostly made up of nitrogen and oxygen, along with other gases such as argon. The pressure these gases exert on us at sea level is about one kilogram per square centimeter. That’s a lot of weight pushing against us, but our bodies are filled with air that pushes against the air outside to balance everything out.
Under normal conditions the air pressure is the same inside and outside the can. When you heated the water inside the can, vapor formed and pushed the air inside the can out. Flipping the can over and dunking it in cold water caused the water vapor to condense and a temporary vacuum to form. The air pressure outside the can was much greater than the air pressure inside the can, which caused the can to implode.
Some water from the bowl might have rushed into the can, but the water wouldn’t be able to rush in fast enough to stop the can from imploding.
Since there’s already an adult around, here’s another experiment you can try that also uses fire. All you’ll need is a couple balloons, a lighter or matches and water.
First blow up a balloon and tie it. Now try holding a flame against the balloon. What happens?
Next put a couple hundred milliliters of water into a balloon, blow it up and tie it. Now try holding a flame against the balloon where the water is. What happens? Why do you think that is?
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