Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Helium Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrap with helium in instead of air
  (+53, -8)(+53, -8)(+53, -8)
(+53, -8)
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Quite a simple idea: by replacing the air in bubble wrap with helium, the packages seem lighter when you put them on scales, and so are cheaper to send!
percy, Feb 19 2002

For [georgie] http://www.newscien...nswers/528gases.jsp
[mighty_cheese, Feb 20 2002]

[link]






       And you can shove the bubble wrap in your mouth, burst the bubbles and make like Donald and Davie Stott.   

       It's mail fraud, but I like it.
calum, Feb 19 2002
  

       well they're the ones who went with the weight instead of volume pricing so I say abuse away.
gootyam, Feb 19 2002
  

       Any killjoys know the relative densities of air and helium and have a postal prices chart? Also, I believe the postal service has a maximum size limit on parcels.
pottedstu, Feb 19 2002
  

       I don't know, but in Canada all our couriers and Canada Post go with cubic weight. Ship an empty 2 cubic foot box and you still pay for 20 pound by ground or 30 by air. This is why we hate it when people fill up the extra large box with all that popcorn stuff. costs us a fortune.
rbl, Feb 19 2002
  

       Of course, you would have to solve the problem of the helium diffusing through the bubble wrap.   

       See http://www.newscientist.com/lastword/answers/528gases.jsp.   

       The bubble wrap would have to be "helium-tight" to ensure that the bubbles do not deflate. If they do, then Grandma's mail-order limited-edition Elvis china plate is toast!
georgie, Feb 19 2002
  

       My vote is the only one that counts here.
Helium, Feb 19 2002
  

       Your moment of glory, Helium?   

       Would this be mail fraud? I think not. If the postage is calculated by weight than weight is all that matters, no?
bristolz, Feb 19 2002
  

       Did you take it lightly?
thumbwax, Feb 20 2002
  

       [Admin: georgie, use the [link] under the idea's text to create hyperlinks.]
mighty_cheese, Feb 20 2002
  

       As long as you don't lose the helium (as balloons do too quickly), I don't think it IS mail fraud. If it weighs less on the scales, it's also lighter for the mailman to carry.
miles, Feb 20 2002
  

       You're going to need intense amounts of helium to make any noticeable difference, though, aren't you? I can't imagine the amount you could squeeze into bubble wrap pillows is going have more than a negligible effect on the weight of a package.
waugsqueke, Feb 20 2002
  

       I went and asked a couple of posties that I know. They said "I don't care" and went back to their pints. So it's not mail fraud, but it may be unacceptable for the more morally upstanding among us.
calum, Feb 20 2002
  

       Good point. In my defence, optimism can make you look stupid but cynicism always makes you look cynical.
calum, Feb 20 2002
  

       and pessimism makes you look wrinkled
po, Feb 20 2002
  

       calum, I like it. Quote or yours?
georgie, Feb 20 2002
  

       Percy, you need to do the math of how much weight you'd actually save in a typical package.   

       Would it be even 0.001%? My guess is that it'd cost immensely more to buy special helium bubble wrap that can contain the gas, than what you'd ever save in shipping rates.   

       Do the math.
seal, Feb 20 2002
  

       What you need here is hydrogen bubble wrap. Hydrogen is much cheaper to make, and it is about half as dense as Heluim. You could have special bubble wrap that mixes H2SO4 with metal shavings so the H2 gas is generated right on the spot (don't have to worry as much about leakage). Best part is, when you want to unwrap the package, you just touch a match to the outside and *pouf* the wrapping's gone.
dangerousdan, Feb 20 2002
  

       Hence the name dangerousdan...
RayfordSteele, Feb 20 2002
  

       Surely if we want the bulle wrap to be light we could just fill the bubbles with a vacume. Plus vacume is free. And Yes I've spelt Vacume wrong, but it's too late at night to matter.   

       Also, not only would this not be fraud, I doubt the post office would comlpain if you make packages lighter... the difference in weight is unlikly to shift the packages weight/price band noticably but will save them a fraction. But then, a fraction of the weight of 4 billion packages is quite a bit.
CasaLoco, Feb 20 2002
  

       if mail is charged by wieght and the pakage floats does the post office pay you money?
i-Mer, Feb 20 2002
  

       CasaLoco, you've failed to spot the fatal flaw in your plan - if you create a vacuum, you don't have a bubble, do you?
goff, Feb 21 2002
  

       You do if you make the bubbles from rigid stainless steel.
angel, Feb 21 2002
  

       [goff] You failed to spot that I was being sarcastic. You can't "fill" anything with a vacume cos theres nothing there.
CasaLoco, Feb 21 2002
  

       Great idea, the best benefit for me would be not having to pick up and dispose of the discarded wrapping that comes with parcels-you can now just leave it on the ceiling
IvanIdea, Feb 21 2002
  

       Good point angel. Or may be cast iron??
goff, Feb 21 2002
  

       Sadly I'm fairly sure it's illegal to send hydrogen through the post. The same stricture probably applies to anti-matter. The best way to save money is to not wrap or package things, but this seems to be baked by several mail order companies.
pottedstu, Feb 21 2002
  

       // You failed to spot that I was being sarcastic. You can't "fill" anything with a vacume cos theres nothing there. //   

       No offence, CL, but when you use words like "vacume", the distinction of sarcasm remains unclear.
waugsqueke, Feb 21 2002
  

       georgie, I think that it is my own. But then again, I can't remember having had an original thought before.
calum, Feb 21 2002
  

       I've always wondered: If I pack a large helium balloon in a box for mailing, and the box floats (has negative weight,) does that mean the postal service owes me money for shipping?
HAL9000, Feb 21 2002
  

       May I also suggest replacing the air in common styrofoam packing peanuts with helium. The trapped gas would dissapate much more slowly. Plus there is the fun feature of opening a package and having all of the packing peanuts float to the ceiling.
HAL9000, Feb 21 2002
  

       Instead of bubble wrap, the big new thing seems to be plastic pillows full of air, a few inches long, which come in strips and are used to pad out half-full boxes. Perfect for gas-related shennanigans.
pottedstu, Feb 21 2002
  

       Approximately one-gazillion thousand people have comment (or perhaps three) on the price of a "negatively-weighted" item. I know people outside of the US pay by volume, so this clearly doesn't apply. When you pay for the shipping, you're paying for more then the weight added to the post's load. You're paying for the space, as well. In most areas, the few 'standard' box sizes help rectify this, as they know how many of each size are permissable for flight. Sincerely,
equivocal, Feb 21 2002
  

       Oh look, so I do...
percy, Feb 22 2002
  

       Not any more, I just voted for the Left Handed Cake Fork. Sorry, but my son is left-handed. And he likes cake. A lot.
goff, Feb 22 2002
  

       Croissant for originality. But its too expensive to work though
Sulla 's Ghost, Feb 22 2002
  

       oooh what an interesting idea. oohhhh!
Siany, Feb 26 2002
  

       Before this goes any further... I know there are minds present who have the capability to determine if the volume of helium which could be trapped in a typical sheet of bubble wrap would be at all significant, at all capable of making the slightest difference in the weight of the package.   

       Why hasn't anyone done this yet? It's got 31 plus votes and we have no way of knowing if it would work or not. There are several other helium related ideas here (eg. chocolate covered nitrogen, featherweight furniture, anti-gravity bra, etc.) where the anno discussiond point out that helium would be ineffectual for the purpose described therein.   

       I think the same is true of this idea. Picture a typical sized shipping box, maybe 18x18x12 (inches). Into such box you would be lucky if you could get three, possibly four average size helium filled balloons. These balloons are barely going to impact the weight of the box alone - and they take up most of the space inside it.   

       So, using bubble wrap, the amount of helium used surely cannot be much more than the previously mentioned balloons contain. The bubbles would be much smaller and considerably less 'pressurized'. Yes they would fill and fit into spaces the balloons cannot, but at the very best the differences only offset each other. Hence, I see you could have a box entirely filled with nothing but helium filled bubble wrap and the difference, if any, it makes in the shipping weight could probably be measured in milligrams.
waugsqueke, Feb 26 2002
  

       At "standard temperature and pressure" [0deg C at average atmospheric pressure at mean sea level] one mole of any gas will fill about 22.4 liters.   

       One mole of air weights slightly over 28 grams.
One mole of helium weighs about 4 grams.
One mole of hydrogen weighs about 1 gram.
  

       Since one mole of helium weighs about 24 grams less than a mole of air, helium has "lift" of just over 1.06 gram per liter. Hydrogen, even though it weighs a quarter as much as helium, has a lift of 1.13 g/l--not much different. Even perfect vacuum (neglecting the weight of the container) only has a lift of 1.17g/l.   

       To avoid paying extra for an overly-large package, length plus girth must not exceed 84". The largest-volume box that meets such a criterion is a 28"x14"x14" (71.12cm x 35.56cm x 35.56cm). Such a box would hold 89.9 liters of gas. Since helium has a lift of 1.06 g/l, the lift is thus 95.3 grams (3.36oz). Measurable, certainly, but not large enough to be worth bothering about.
supercat, Feb 26 2002
  

       supercat, thanks. That's exactly what I was hoping to see.   

       And your example presumes the entire box to be filled with helium, correct? It does not allow for the displacement from the box contents... the actual items being shipped in it. So the effect would be considerably less once the box was packed.   

       Good. Now that we've established that this wouldn't work as described, can someone tell me how it got 31 plus votes?
waugsqueke, Feb 27 2002
  

       Well, "Tails for All" is currently -31, +108, so it's obviously not on any particularly sound basis.
angel, Feb 27 2002
  

       angel, on the contrary, that's perfectly reasonable: making packages fly by filling them with helium will never work, whereas putting tails on people is just a matter of time...
sodapop3000, Feb 27 2002
  

       It would also be effective to put a hole in the bottom of an airtight box, then release hydrogen directly into the box(helium is too expensive), and the air will automatically push itself out while the hydogen replaces all of the air. Then seal up the box and weight it again. No pump is needed since the hydrogen will push iself higher into the box, and at the same time push the air lower out of the box. If that proves unsafe it could at least be a helium-hydrogen mix.
jamesxi, Sep 21 2002
  

       It would also be effective to put a hole in the bottom of an airtight box, then release hydrogen directly into the box(helium is too expensive), and the air will automatically push itself out while the hydogen replaces all of the air. Then seal up the box and weight it again. No pump is needed since the hydrogen will push iself higher into the box, and at the same time push the air lower out of the box. If that proves unsafe it could at least be a helium-hydrogen mix.
jamesxi, Sep 21 2002
  

       so, what if i was mailing helium???
anonymous_coward, Dec 17 2002
  

       [supercat] there's a small, mostly irrelevant mistake in the molar mass of hydrogen. Hydrogen gas at normal temperatures is in molecular form, so the molar mass is 2 grams/mole.   

       I only mention it because I missed out on an A on a final in high school chemistry (way back when) because I made exactly that mistake.   

       Now back to your regularly scheduled program of someone else wondering if a package with negative weight would be mailed for negative money....
talldave, Jul 07 2003
  

       //there's a small, mostly irrelevant mistake in the molar mass of hydrogen. Hydrogen gas at normal temperatures is in molecular form, so the molar mass is 2 grams/mole.//   

       Thanks for the correction. Can you look at my table in "Develop a lighter-than-air solid" and tell me if there are any errors or omissions there?
supercat, Jul 08 2003
  

       The savings in weight would be negligible compared to the cost of the helium itself. It might be cheaper to carve sculptures out of antimatter and send them in a magnetic bottle.
mystic2311, Dec 10 2003
  

       The package would still weigh the same amount (possibly minisculy lighter because of the difference between the weight of helium and air).
bspollard, May 27 2004
  

       Has anyone settled this yet?
xandram, Jul 31 2006
  

       To contain He you're going to need a much more expensive wrap, and it will probably be heavier overall as well. (-)
ldischler, Jul 31 2006
  

       Can't you make the bubble-wrap material stronger (again) and fill up the bubble-compartment with vacuum. Don't vacuums weigh even less than heliums ?
monojohnny, Jul 31 2006
  

       God!
ldischler, Jul 31 2006
  

       This doesn't work. The volumn required causes the shipping price to rise more than the lowered weight causes the shipping price to decline.
James Newton, Aug 01 2006
  

       Plus, how would the manufacturer deliver bubble wrap to the post office without the delivery truck lifting off the road?
phundug, Aug 01 2006
  

       I'm so intrigued, I want to try it.
xandram, Aug 01 2006
  

       Squeaky bun
Dub, Aug 03 2006
  

       If it was lighter than air than when someone tries to measure it's weight it would seem to weigh a negative amount, so the shipping company would have to pay you.
apocalyps956, Aug 03 2006
  

       A great idea, but everyone is forgetting something:   

       If you took an empty 9 cubic foot box and filled it with bubble wrap, it would take less than an ounce off the weight, if anything. I would be surprised if the helium-filled bubble wrap even managed to float; helium is light, but not that light. However, hydrogen on the other hand, twice as light as helium....   

       Overall, I think that it really wouldn't be worth it to use helium bubble wrap. A bun for you anyway; good idea, but really not practical.
Shrimp, Aug 05 2006
  

       // If it was lighter than air than when someone tries to measure it's weight it would seem to weigh a negative amount, so the shipping company would have to pay you.//   

       You could try taking a normal helium balloon with an address stuck on to the post office and ask them for money to post it.
Mony a Mickle, Nov 12 2008
  

       Now residing in my bucket list is to fill packages with helium and post them (picturing packages stuck to the ceiling and floating around in the depot).
FlyingToaster, Nov 12 2008
  

       HELIUM BUBBLE WRAP HUH, HOW ABOUT BUYING A PARTY BALLOON AND FILL IT WITH HELIUM FROM A CARTREDGE? AS FOR HELIUM BUBBLE WRAP IT WOULD BE GREAT FOR FILLING UP THE BLIMPS. THAT WAY IF SOMEONE SHOOTS AND HITS IT WITH A BULLET IT WOULD NOT CRASH. iI'M SORRY BUT THE COST OF THE HELIUM FILLED BUBBLE WRAP WOULD ELIMINATE ANY SAVINGS ON POSTAGE i'M AFRAID.
HEMPSTER, Jan 12 2013
  

       I like your name HEMPSTER.
Kansan101, Jan 12 2013
  

       I don't know why [HEMPSTER] is afraid - if he doesn't want to ship his packages this way no one is forcing him to. And he's shouting.
normzone, Jan 15 2013
  

       Its wraps itself with helium bubble wrap or its gets it! Now to fpv in final fantasy polyurethane wraped airship drones with helium bubble wrapped components and circuit boards!
punkroku, Oct 29 2015
  

       It may be good for amazon if they ever use drones to deliver packages. But the litter may be bad for jet engines when planes fly into some stray floating helium bubble wrap.
travbm, Oct 29 2015
  
      
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