Simple Hovercraft

Hovercraft transport people and their stuff across ice, grass, swamp, water, and land. Also known as the Air Cushioned Vehicle (ACV), these machines use air to greatly reduce the sliding friction between the bottom of the vehicle (the skirt) and the ground. This is a great example of how lubrication works – most people think of oil as the only way to reduce sliding friction, but gases work well if done right.

In this case, the readily-available air is shoved downward by the pressure inside of balloon. This air flows down through the nozzle and out the bottom, under the CD, lifting it slightly as it goes and creating a thin layer for the CD to float on.

Although this particular hovercraft only has a ‘hovering’ option, I’m sure you can quickly figure out how to add a ‘thruster’ to make it zoom down the table! (Hint – you will need to add a second balloon!)

Here’s what you need:

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108 Responses to “Simple Hovercraft”
  1. Aurora says:

    It can be. The instructions are for how to build the hovercraft. What you’d like to test is totally up to you. You can try different balloons, different surfaces, different times of day for outside air temperature, etc. Just make sure you are only changing one thing at a time (one variable)!

  2. Aurora says:

    As long as it’s smooth on the bottom surface it will work.

  3. Tamara Howard says:

    Just 1 question. What if the disc isn’t too old? Would the thing still move?

  4. Tamara Howard says:

    For this experiment is the floor the variable?

  5. Aurora says:

    That’s a great question – I am not sure if they will be too big or not, so I would totally try it and see!

  6. Tamara Howard says:

    Would punch balloons work?

  7. Tamara Howard says:

    Do you mean like potholes?

  8. Aurora says:

    No – you just need something to make a very small hole in the cap for the air to leak out.

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