Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Physics of The Hindenburg Air Ship


The Hindenburg was a German airship that had a fatal crash in 1937. There is still debate over the reasoning for the crash as well as debate over the fuel that the fire started from. However, the most commonly accepted idea is that that the flammable hydrogen used in the balloon for buoyancy caught fire. The flames rapidly spread and the ship crashed to the ground killing 36 people. Today, hydrogen is no longer used and helium is favored.



The airship itself was quite large so I was curious to know how much gas was in the balloon when it crashed.

In order to do this I can use the ideal gas law to determine the number of moles. Assuming a pressure of 0.005 atm (typical pressure in a blimp), a volume of 200,000 cubic meters (200000000L), and a temperature of 25°C.

PV=nRT
(0.005 atm)( 200,000,000 L)=n(0.082057)(298 K)
n=40,895 moles of hydrogen

Next, out of curiosity, I wanted to know how much pressure would be required to put this amount of gas into a 1 L bottle.

PV=nRT
P(1 L)=(40,895 moles)(0.082057)(298 K)

P=1,000,000 atm!

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