Introduction: LED Floaties: That Float Away!

Picture of LED Floaties: That Float Away!
My friend from blastwave labs gave me a call a couple days ago and he told me grand plans for the LEDs and batteries I had stagnating in my closet. His female counterpart was leaving her job at party city, so it was the perfect time to obtain a bunch of balloons (not steal) and rent a tank of helium.

There's another related instructable: LED Floaties by tetranitrate. The floaties didn't get to float up up and away, but made a cool temporary art installation at a park!

Video of the construction and launch:

Step 1: LED Throwie Minus Magnet

Picture of LED Throwie Minus Magnet

Follow the instructable for LED Throwies, but just leave the magnet out of the equation. We also decided to make an internet guestbook, print out the URL and tape that to the LED units that were going inside the balloons.

There is also some maths you can do to make sure your balloons are going to fly:

The volume of a sphere:
V = 4/3(pi)r3

And we used 12" latex balloons, so r = 6 inches, which gives ~904 cubic inches or ~15 liters of helium per balloon.

You can approximate for every liter of helium used, you can get about 1 gram of lift, the battery and LED were about 4 grams, the balloon itself was around 3 grams and we can give another gram for the tape and URL paper. The payload for the helium was a total of ~8 grams, which is a ready for launch Houston!

Step 2: Stuff Your Balloons

Picture of Stuff Your Balloons

Now that you have the LEDs and batteries taped together and ready to rock, stuff them in a balloon.

The video in the intro has a good demonstration on how to do this, but basically just have someone stretch the neck of the balloon like it was a sock about to be put on and have another person insert the LED unit. Simple!

Step 3: Fill Them Up and Bag 'em!

Picture of Fill Them Up and Bag 'em!

Just fill up the lit balloons as you would a 'normal' one, great!

You can start bagging them for transport, we just used large black lawn bags, which held around 7-10 balloons each. In total we had about 70 balloons, including one large 24" with 5 LEDs on it!

Step 4: Release!

Picture of Release!

It's a most beautiful sight. Have fun, feel guilty about shafting mother Earth*, and listen to your radio scanner!

(*but not too guilty, I talked to her about the project and she said "Don't worry about it! I'm just a rock in outer space hosting some very silly self conscious life forms... the one's who will waste time and energy making comments about the impact to their water table have actually done more damage to me themselves at the end of the day!" and I was like "Cool, thanks Mom! I love you.")


robert0joe (author)2010-08-29

If some short-circuit happens, you know the LED's pins stick and cause a spark/arc would that ignite the helium on the balloon?

boonos (author)robert0joe2010-11-03

you're probably thinking of hydrogen, helium is not flammable

nak (author)robert0joe2010-08-29

"Helium is the least reactive noble gas after neon and thus the second least reactive of all elements" Someone needs to learn for themselves! Have you ever tried to ignite helium?

ryoka (author)2008-02-09

i made 800 of these and let them loose in my house. NO CEILING SPACE LEFT BARE!!!

paperclip32 (author)ryoka2010-02-22

 liar liar pants on fire.

A good name (author)ryoka2008-05-09

How'd you afford all the batteries?

diN0bot (author)ryoka2008-03-29

awesome! how dim/bright was that? how long did it take to make?

xguy (author)2008-11-23

why not use those cheap solar led sets then you'd want to keep them.

Jonny Katana (author)2008-01-23

Great Instructable, I don't know why I didn't think of this when all these LED shenanigans started. I think it would be entertaining to tether the balloons to the ground in a pattern to form some sort of figure, maybe even a 3-dimensional object like a tilted cube or something (use the ground as your xy plane, the string length as your z). A fair amount of calculations would be in order, to be sure, but it would be worth it. And afterwards, you can retrieve the whole works, keeping your wallet and the hippies happy :)

nak (author)Jonny Katana2008-01-27

Yeah, I like this idea, I've just been thinking about it, and the calculations shouldn't be too difficult. The string used to tether the balloons/LEDs down would have to be factored into the weight to make sure they will still float! And just some graph paper to determine the length of the strings. But wind could also be a problem, a slight breeze could take your beautiful art and tangle it up into some unrecognizable mess!

Froggy1294 (author)nak2008-10-30

use a very long length of wire, not string, to hold the balloons still could it work?

nak (author)Froggy12942008-10-30

Use your imagination! Here's what my imagination says, nope!

Jonny Katana (author)nak2008-01-27

I live in Arizona, so I think there will be a few days soon where wind is not too much of factor. Still, I agree it is vulnerable to any substantial wind, so maybe some sort of rigging should be used between the balloons as well. Now to go find massive amounts of button cell batteries on the cheap...

Also, I think "LED Loonies" would be a good alternate name.

comodore (author)2008-02-03


Derin (author)comodore2008-09-28

*a led floatie

comodore (author)Derin2008-09-28

right (know-it-all) :)

Your Average Guy (author)2008-09-06

Tie fishing line on these and tie them to random things. Maybe vary the sizes of the line so u got stationary UFO's floating everywhere. I tie them to stuff at parks, stopsigns, and ..... SCHOOLS!!!! Oh the schools! So funny. I gotta try this!

RidoKilos (author)2008-02-06

How do you ensure that the floatie comes down when it's still dark out??? Is there some sort of 'bloon airtime calculator somewhere??

Xerillum (author)RidoKilos2008-08-31

One word: Shotgun

geeklord (author)2008-08-08

Did the one have 4 LED's on it??

Chris Tucker (author)2008-07-05

Logan Airport + Boston paranoia about LEDs + LED Floaties = MUCH Hijinx Ensuing.

Followed by automatic weapons fire.


Super Ultra Bright LEDs, + Optical fiber + sufficient lift = a swarm of Ignignokts shooting the bird to Boston from on high.

(I live in Boston and this is giving me many evil ideas. THNAK YOU!)

082535 (author)2008-05-25

release them in New Mexico then people will think that they are UFOs. cool Instructable tho

warrenmiller (author)2008-05-22

hi - would this work with 9 balloons with the weight of the led and battery?


nak (author)warrenmiller2008-05-22

Step 1 tells you how to figure that out:
9 inch balloon has about a 4.5 inch diameter. Volume = ~382 cubic inches = ~6.26 liters of helium

1 liter of helium = about 1 gram of lift, the payload weight is about 8 grams, but that is still about 2 grams too heavy to be lifted by a 9 inch balloon.

But hey, give it a shot, science is experiment.

casey321b (author)2008-05-19

what happens when they pop in mid atmosphere. falling baterys and LEDs ow...

jeffgwapo (author)2008-05-19

hehe the pilot said look its u.f.o. then got crashed they tought it was a u.f.o. hehe just joking

jlkinetics (author)2008-01-22

great project, but just one thing. I may just be making an ass of myself, because i dont know for sure, but isnt helium combustible? if so, a spark from a loose connection could set it off. amirite?

randofo (author)jlkinetics2008-01-22

No. Helium is inert. Hydrogen is combustible. They're on opposite sides of, our good friend, the periodic table.

idiotbasher (author)randofo2008-05-16

that not my frend=p

munchman (author)randofo2008-01-26

They both lift though.

zachninme (author)munchman2008-01-26

...because they're both less dense than air ;-)

bryanbrews (author)2008-04-01

this is awesome!! but why did you do it?

FreshPineSent (author)2008-02-15

Bravo man, brav - frikin - O

marc92 (author)2008-02-11

Have you heard anything good listening to your radio scanner after releasing a bunch of floaties? I can imagine airline pilots getting angry with this idea and I'm pretty sure that is a federal offense... ...If you live near an airport, or under a commonly used flight path, do be careful with this idea.

nak (author)marc922008-02-13

I didn't have my scanner on me (mistake) so I turned it on about an hour+ after the release, there was no noise (aircraft/police)... I was hoping to get some comical recordings, oh well!

ll.13 (author)2008-02-11

didn't Tetranitrate do this? :-/

nak (author)ll.132008-02-13

Sorta, I linked to his instructable (intro step). The only difference is these float away. :-\

nickjohnson (author)2008-01-22

It looks really cool, but... Wow! it's like littering a balloon, AND littering a battery in a single act. I'm not trying to be a prick, but, you know how bad batteries are for the environment?

jackspara (author)nickjohnson2008-02-02

Most of those batteries go rot in a dump.

nickjohnson (author)jackspara2008-02-04

It's true, it's a shame. Non-rechargeable batteries always, ultimately, end up as waste. Non-rechargeable batteries cannot be recycled (though rechargeables CAN!) Ideally, gadgets which need batteries will move towards rechargeable. This has already happened with cars, phones, ipods, pdas, laptops, etc. Coincidentally, the only place I ever see non-rechargeable batteries is with cheap products that are intended to be thrown away, especially stupid toys. Still, a dump is slightly different than littering. Dumps (more appropriately, landfills) are designed to minimize runoff. Yeah, it's still pollution, but it is contained pollution, and efforts are made to prevent it from, say, mixing with our water supplies. So, again I say: there is no excuse to litter a battery.

schimmi (author)nickjohnson2008-02-10

or we could throw all the garbage we have into the nearest black hole...

nickjohnson (author)schimmi2008-02-11

Well, save yourself the trouble and aim for the sun. It's a lot closer. Even then you have to consider the amount of energy needed to get that waste to escape earth's gravity and go on course towards the sun. You might be able to cut corners, and send it towards the sun's gravity well, hoping the sun will take it the rest of the way. By my estimates, you still need an absurd about of energy to get it there, and that energy will (in this day and age, most likely) come from fossil fuels.

bartax (author)nickjohnson2008-01-22


BeanBot (author)2008-02-03

this is awesome, but not to be a "party pooper" but yeah this is pretty bad for the environment, we need something greener... but i sooo want to do this!!

sensoryhouse (author)2008-01-30

could you imagine chilling outside and have one of these come back down after the helium has escaped. I PREDICT A SUDDEN INCREASE IN UFO SIGHTINGS AAAhAHAHAHAHA!

lmn (author)sensoryhouse2008-02-02

yeah lol
you live in dallas TX? ;)

teh darkcloud (author)2008-01-26

I agree about the whole "not releasing them into the air" thing, but this is definitely a cool idea to have for a part, just floating up on the ceiling.

dragonito (author)teh darkcloud2008-01-29

so people can take them... xD

DeLorean4905 (author)2008-01-28

freakin awesome. and the song just makes it that much better. you should release a bunch of them at the airport at night, lol. well, that wouldn't be safe -if even legal... so maybe a super tall office building at night? it'd be awesome to release hundreds at the seatle space needle's base

About This Instructable




Bio: Twitter: @mindsforge
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