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Why Some Balloons Shred

Ka-Bang !

We all know that when a balloon bursts, somewhere, it started with a single hole. So how did this thing end up in so many pieces? 

Balloon shredding rarely occurs when a balloon is under inflated or popped with a sharp object. It is most likely to happen if the balloon is over inflated and has no defects.


(Picture Credit Unknown)

Here we see a balloon caught mid-pop. As it was not over-inflated, the burst is simply a tear. This tear will result in one or two pieces. 

Still, the clues to shredding are visible. On close inspection you can see shock waves traveling through the skin of the balloon. These are actually sound waves containing peaks and troths of pressure. The balloon skin works like a speaker diaphragm, this is one of the reasons balloons pop so loud. If you rub your hand across a tight balloon, the squeaking can be deafening! This is due to the Diaphragm effect.  


Here is a great picture of a balloon shredding on burst! When a good quality balloon is blown to bursting, the entire skin is pulled tight to the bursting point. When this happens, the peaks and troths of the sound wave actually exceed the bursting point of the balloon skin! Often, it is very regular with each rupture happening at the resonate frequency length. Secondary ruptures can then produce additional ruptures until all that is left is rubber confetti !  The trick is that the balloon must be allowed to "ring" like a bell. Anything that dampens the sound will reduce the shredding effect.

(Picture Credit Unknown)

For those who may think the above picture was a fluke, here is a second picture of the same type of effect. (Credit unknown.) 


Here, a restrained balloon of the same type as in the first picture, is caught mid-burst. Notice how the pieces are much larger and fewer in number. This is because the balloon was restrained and inflated laying against a soft surface.

(see Mr Orange)

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