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Saved by an Air Bag
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Saved by an Air Bag

Credit: Lupin, Arpingstone
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Airbag_SEAT_Ibiza.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Just one moment of inattention. That’s all it took for this car to crash into the car in front of it. The driver escaped without injury thanks to the rapid deployment of the air bag. The rapid production of gas and expansion of the air bag was made possible due to gas laws discovered well over one hundred years ago.

News You Can Use

  • “Air bags” are not really full of air. When inflated, they contain nitrogen gas generated from a reaction with sodium azide. The products are nitrogen gas (which fills the bag) and sodium metal (when then needs to be neutralized by reaction with potassium nitrate). Enough gas is made to fill the bag, but not to overfill it.
  • Most vehicles have airbags that come out of the steering wheel, as well as the front passenger location. Newer vehicles will also locate airbags on the side door. Some cars also have airbags (curtain airbags) that are found above the windows and protect the head.
  • Credit: Razvan Orendovici
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/razvanorendovici/4488941840/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    How an air bag fits into the steering wheel [Figure2]

     

  • Airbags can be hazardous for infants and small children. A small child exposed to an airbag in a collision is twice as likely to incur an injury. Children under the age of thirteen should ride in the back seat of a car.
  • Watch a video on the action of an airbag at the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSz6y-W-R_A

Explore More

Use the links below to learn more about airbags. Then answer the following questions.

  1. When is an airbag sensor activated?
  2. Why wasn’t compressed air ever used in an airbag system?
  3. What ignites the gas-generating material?
  4. What is the maximum pressure in an airbag?
  5. How long does it take to fill an airbag?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Lupin, Arpingstone; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Airbag_SEAT_Ibiza.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Razvan Orendovici; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/razvanorendovici/4488941840/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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