Did you know that you can illuminate a light bulb with the static electricity from a balloon!? I didn’t believe it either until I saw it with my own eyes. So let’s go ahead and see how it works with this Light Bulb Balloon Experiment!
This super cool and easy experiment will not only amaze your kids, but you will probably find yourself wondering how a balloon can light up a light bulb too!
Get more super cool Balloon Science Experiments here!
Light Bulb Balloon Experiment
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How do You Light a Light Bulb With a Balloon?
- Inflate a large balloon with air and tie it off.
- Rub the balloon on something like a shirt or clothing that will create static electricity.
- Turn off the lights or go to a very dark area.
- Hold the balloon above a CFL lightbulb while moving the balloon up and down just above the balloon.
- Watch in amazement as the light bulb begins to flicker and briefly light up!
Step 1: Air up a Large Balloon
This step is super simple, but you do want to use a fairly large balloon for the best results in this light bulb balloon experiment. Once you blow enough of your hot air into your balloon you can tie it off and get ready for the next step.
Step 2: Create Some Static by Rubbing the Balloon on Your Head or Clothes
Grab your newly filled up balloon and begin rubbing it on your hair quickly! If you are like me and prefer to not mess up your hair, then you can also rub the balloon on your shoulder, or even your pant leg to create enough static electricity.
Rub the balloon for about 10 seconds or until you can start to feel the static building up. One thing that you do want to use caution with is not to rub the balloon across your chest if you have a pacemaker as it could create problems.
Step 3: Make Sure You are in a Dark Location
If you are doing this light bulb balloon experiment in the daytime, you might want to do it in a bathroom or laundry room that does not have windows. The darker you can get the room to be, the easier it will be to see your light bulb flicker when the balloon is placed over it.
Whatever the case may be just make sure to close those blinds, turn off the lights, and make it as dark as you can so that you can see the magic happen before your eyes!
Step 4: Hold the Balloon Above the Light Bulb
Use one hand to hold the CFL lightbulb upright and use your other hand to hold your static-filled balloon about an inch above the lightbulb.
You do want to be careful not to touch the balloon to the lightbulb because this will discharge all the static you worked hard to create and you will have to start at step 2 again.
While holding the light bulb steady and keeping the balloon just above, but not touching the light bulb, go ahead and move the balloon up and down and side to side above the light bulb.
Step 5: Enjoy Watching the Light Bulb Flicker and Glow
As long as you have done steps 1-4 correctly, and you are using a good CFL (fluorescent) bulb that is not burned out, then you should see something pretty cool happening before your eyes!
Your light bulb should be energized enough by the balloon’s static electricity that the light bulb will start to flicker and briefly light up the dark room you are in.
Just how bright your bulb will be able to get from the balloon’s power will depend on the wattage and quality of your light bulb, but you should be able to catch a few quick flickers of light at the very least!
How a Light Bulb Works Simple Explanation
There are two common types of light bulbs depending on the method they use to provide the light that we all count on them for. One type of light bulb is called an incandescent light bulb. Incandescent light bulbs use electricity to heat up a small wire, called a filament.
Incandescent Light Bulb:
The filament in an incandescent light gets hot enough that it glows and produces the light we see in a light bulb. This type of bulb will not work with the static electricity of a balloon in our light bulb balloon experiment because it takes way more energy than the balloon can produce.
Although this light bulb balloon experiment does not produce enough energy to light up an incandescent bulb, there is a different type of bulb that requires much less electrical energy and will light up from the static electricity of the balloon!
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL):
This other common type of household light bulb is a fluorescent, often referred to as a CFL bulb. These bulbs use a different technology to create light by using electricity to energize gas inside the bulb to create light.
These CFL (fluorescent) bulbs have low-pressure gas atoms inside of them that contain electrically charged particles called electrons. When high voltage electricity begins flowing through this gas inside the bulb it begins to strip the electrons from the atoms.
The result of the electrons being stripped from the gas atoms in the bulb is a chemical reaction that produces ultraviolet light. Now this ultraviolet light is actually not visible to our human eyes, but the glass tube of the light bulb is coated in a powder that glows when it is exposed to ultraviolet light.
The glowing tube of the CFL bulb is due to this fascinating reaction between the electricity flowing through the low-pressure gas inside the bulb. Check out this very informative website if you want to learn more about these types of light bulbs.
Balloon Powered Light Bulb
The beauty of a CFL bulb is that it is so energy efficient that even a static electricity filled balloon is enough to light it up…for a second or two at least!
The balloon that has been rubbed on your hair or clothing has collected electrical charges that we refer to as static electricity. When you move the balloon close to the CFL lightbulb the static electricity of the balloon begins to interact with the electrons inside and the light bulb illuminates!