3M’s Chief Science Advocate, Jayshree Seth as she teaches students how chemistry can help put some air where it’s most needed

Inflation Station, also Known as “Blow Up”

Use the gas produced when you combine vinegar and baking soda to inflate a balloon

Key Concepts

  • chemistry boiling flask on support stand icon
  • CO2 gas icon


  • reaction in flask icon


  • round bottom flask and test tube icon
    Acids and Bases


  • Introduction

    You probably know that when you mix certain chemicals together, sometimes strange and amazing things happen. One of the most popular reactions is combining Baking Soda and Vinegar to create a beautiful mountain of bubbles. But have you ever wondered if you can use that reaction to do something useful? In this activity we will explore how we can you a chemical reaction to do some work!

  • Background

    Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas. Carbon dioxide is a natural occurring chemical. Plants use carbon dioxide and energy from the sun to perform photosynthesis. Automobiles emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct of burning gasoline. It can be harmful when it is too abundant. Today we are going to look at one of its helpful applications.

  • Preparations

    • Measure out 1/4 cup of baking soda
    • Measure out 1 cup of vinegar
    • Stretch out the mouth of the balloon so it will be easier to fit it onto the mouth of the water bottle
  • Procedure

    1. Place the narrow end of the funnel into the mouth of the balloon so that the balloon hangs underneath the funnel. Carefully pour the baking soda into the balloon.  When finished, the balloon should be about half full of baking soda.
    2. Remove the funnel from the balloon and place the balloon on the table.
    3. Use the funnel to carefully pour the vinegar into the empty water bottle.
    4. With assistance from an adult, stretch the mouth of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle. Make sure it is on nice and tight all the way around the mouth of the bottle.
    5. With one hand holding the water bottle in place, use your other hand to help the baking soda in the balloon to find its way into the water bottle. What do you see happening inside the water bottle? What happens to the balloon?
  • Observation and Results

    Why did the balloon inflate? When you mix baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NAHCO3) and vinegar (Acetic Acid, CH3COOH) carbonic acid is quickly created. This is what caused the bubbles you saw. Carbonic acid (H2CO3) is very unstable and breaks down into water and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas and needs lots of room, so it rushes into the balloon and fills it up. 

  • Clean Up

    Be careful when you remove the balloon from the water bottle. You can have an adult help you. You can pour the liquid solution in the water bottle down the drain with a water rinse.

  • More to Explore

    There are lots of ways to extend and repeat this reaction. You can turn it into an experiment and modify the inputs to see if you get a different outcome. Here are a couple of variables you might explore. What happens when you change...

    • The amount of baking soda?
    • The amount of vinegar?
    • The temperature of the vinegar?

    Remember you only want to change one variable at a time so that you can observe and understand what is happening.

  • Safety First & Adult Supervision

    • Follow the experiment’s instructions carefully.
    • A responsible adult should assist with each experiment.
    • While science experiments at home are exciting ways to learn about science hands-on, please note that some may require participants to take extra safety precautions and/or make a mess. 
    • Adults should handle or assist with potentially harmful materials or sharp objects.
    • Adult should review each experiment and determine what the appropriate age is for the student’s participation in each activity before conducting any experiment.

Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) Supported - Disciplinary Core Ideas

This experiment was selected for Science at Home because it teaches NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, which have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines.

Learn more about how this experiment is based in NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.

Physical Science (PS) – 1 Matter and Its Interactions

Grades K-2

  • 2-PS1-1. Different kinds of matter exist and many of them can be either solid or liquid (or gas).

Grades 3-5

  • 5- PS1-1. Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see but even then, the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. 
  • 5-PS1-2. The amount of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish.
  • 5-PS1-4. The amount of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish. 

Middle School (MS) Grades 6-8

  • MS-PS1-1.  Substances are made of different types of atoms, which combine with one another in various ways. Atoms form molecules that range in size from two to thousands of atoms. 
  • MS-PS1-4. Gases and liquids are made of molecules or inert atoms that are moving about relative to each other. In a liquid, the molecules are constantly in contact with others; in a gas, they are widely spaced except when they happen to collide. In a solid, atoms are closely spaced and may vibrate in position but do not change relative locations. 

High School (HS) Grades 9-12

  • HS-PS1-1. Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons. 
  • HS-PS1-3. The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. 

Grades 3-5

  • 5-PS1-4. When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed.
  • 5-PS1-2. No matter what reaction or change in properties occurs, the total weight of the substances does not change. 

Grades 6-8

  • MS-PS1-7. Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants. 
  • MS-PS1-5. The total number of each type of atom is conserved, and thus the mass does not change.
  • MS-PS1-6. Some chemical reactions release energy, others store energy.

Grades 9-12

  • HS-PS1-5. Chemical processes, their rates, and whether or not energy is stored or released can be understood in terms of the collisions of molecules and the rearrangements of atoms into new molecules, with consequent changes in the sum of all bond energies in the set of molecules that are matched by changes in kinetic energy.
  • HS-PS1-7. The fact that atoms are conserved, together with knowledge of the chemical properties of the elements involved, can be used to describe and predict chemical reactions.