Phenomena

The Airbag’s Inflation

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Airbags have become a standard safety feature for automobiles. As the Slow Mo Guys demonstrate in the video above, the bags inflate incredibly quickly–less than 1/25th of a second! The incredible speed of the system’s deployment is what keeps the car’s occupants from slamming into the hard surfaces of the wheel or dashboard. But this only works if the passenger is far enough away that the airbag is inflated before they contact it. Because the bag inflates so quickly, it does so with enormous force, like the airbag in the video flinging the glass of water. When a car registers a crash, it sparks the ignitor of a solid-propellant inflator, initiating a chemical reaction that produces the nitrogen gas that fills the airbag. This is essentially the same process as a solid-propellant rocket. (Video credit: The Slow Mo Guys)

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