Boyle's Law Examples in Real Life

Updated on July 19, 2018
mattforte profile image

Steven is a 30-something, futurist, father, and self-taught science nut.

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What Is Boyle's Law and Equation?

In 1662, Robert Boyle discovered the volume and pressure of gasses are inversely proportionate when held at a constant temperature. Put simply, when volume rises, pressure drops, and vice versa.

The mathematic equation is equally as simple.

PV = k

In this equation, (P) represents pressure, (V) represents volume, and (k) is a constant.

This has become a basic principle in chemistry, now called "Boyle's law," and is included as a special case in the more general ideal gas law.

How Did Boyle Come up With His Law?

Using a vacuum pump invented by Otto von Guericke in 1654, Boyle carried out experiments investigating the properties of air and the vacuum.

During his experiments, he stumbled upon the greatest achievement of his life. By using a J-shaped glass tube that had air at the tip of the curve, Boyle altered the weight of the air using mercury and, as he did so, he saw that the space of air at the tip of the curve became smaller. He discovered that when you increase pressure on a gas, the gas's volume predictably shrinks.

Why Is Boyle's Law Important?

Boyle's law is important because it tells us about the behavior of gasses. It explains, with certainty, that the pressure and volume of gas are inversely proportional to one another. So, if you push on gas, its volume becomes smaller and the pressure becomes higher.

Examples of Boyle's Law in Life

You have probably been well-acquainted with Boyle's law for most of your life without realizing it. We experience examples of this law on a regular basis. The first example is a rather common one, assuming you have filled a tire with air before.

Generally, you fill a tire with somewhere between 30 to 35 PSI (pounds per square inch) of compressed air. This is a measurement of pressure. As you put more and more air into the tire, you are forcing all the gas molecules to get packed together, reducing their volume and increasing the pressure pushing on the walls of the tire. As long as the air temperature remains the same, you are experiencing a real life example of this law.

Other examples include:

Real-World Applications of Boyle's Law

  1. Spray paint
  2. The syringe
  3. The soda can
  4. The bends

Read on for descriptions of the examples listed above.

Spray paint uses a real life application of Boyle's law to work its magic.
Spray paint uses a real life application of Boyle's law to work its magic. | Source

1. Spray Paint

While there are a couple different types of aerosol cans, some being a little more elaborate than other, they all rely on the same basic principle: Boyle's law.

Before you spray a can of paint, you are supposed to shake it up for a while as a ball bearing rattles around inside. There are two substances inside the can: one is your product (paint for example), and the other is a gas that can be pressurized so much that it retains a liquid state, even when it is heated past its boiling point.

This liquefied gas has a boiling point far below room temperature. Because the can is sealed, the gas is prevented from boiling and turning into a gas. That is, until you push down the nozzle.

The moment the nozzle of a spray paint can goes down, the seal is broken and the propellant instantly boils, expands into a gas, and pushes down on the paint. Under the high pressure, the paint is forced out of the nozzle as it attempts to reach an area with lower pressure.

The syringe is a textbook example of Boyle's law in action.
The syringe is a textbook example of Boyle's law in action. | Source

2. The Syringe

This mechanism is far more simple than a can of spray paint. Syringes of all types utilize Boyle's law on a very basic level.

When you pull the plunger out on a syringe, it causes the volume within the chamber to increase. As we know, this causes the pressure to do the opposite, which then creates a vacuum. When a syringe is empty, the vacuum within the chamber sucks fluid in through the needle.

Carbonation is what makes soda so delicious. Boyle's law is responsible for spraying it all over your car.
Carbonation is what makes soda so delicious. Boyle's law is responsible for spraying it all over your car. | Source

3. The Soda Can or Bottle

Typically when we open a bottle of soda, we slowly turn the cap to allow the air to escape before we completely remove the lid. We do this because we've learned over time that twisting it open too fast causes it to fizz up and spill all over. This happens because the liquid is pumped full of carbon dioxide, causing it to bubble up as the CO2 makes its escape.

When a soda bottle is filled, it is also pressurized. Much like the aerosol can mentioned earlier, when you slowly open the cap, the gas is able to increase its volume and the pressure decreases.

Normally you can let the gas out of a can or bottle release cleanly, but if the bottle is shaken up and the gas is mixed into the liquid, then you may have a mess on your hands. This is because the gas trying to escape is mixed into the fluid, so, when it does escape, it brings the foamy fluid out with it. Pressure in the bottle goes down, volume of the gas goes up, and you have yourself a mess to clean up.

"The bends" is a life threatening condition caused when divers don't respect the threat of Boyle's law.
"The bends" is a life threatening condition caused when divers don't respect the threat of Boyle's law. | Source

4. The Bends

Any properly trained scuba diver knows when they are ascending from deep waters, a slow ascension is critical. Our bodies are built for and accustomed to living in the normal pressure of our lower atmosphere. As a diver goes deeper underwater, that pressure begins to increase. Water is heavy, after all. With the increasing pressure causing a decrease in volume, nitrogen gasses begin to be absorbed by the diver's blood.

When the diver begins his ascent and the pressure is lessened, these gas molecules begin to expand back to their normal volume. With a slow ascent, or through the use of a depressurization chamber, those gasses can work their way back out of the bloodstream slowly and normally. But if the diver ascends too quickly, the blood in their vains becomes a foamy mess. The same thing that happens to a foamy soda is what happens to a diver's bloodstream during the bends. On top of that, any built up nitrogen between the diver's joints will also expand, causing the diver to bend over (hence its name) in severe pain. In the worst cases, this sudden depressurization of the body can kill a person instantly.

The Cartesian Diver: Build Your Own Example of Boyle's Law

By now you either have a basic understanding of Boyle's law and how it can be applied to the real world, or you're suddenly afraid to go swimming.

Either way, this last example of Boyle's law in action is something you can build yourself! First, you need a small list of supplies:

Supplies

  • One transparent 2-liter bottle
  • One small glass dropper
  • Water

Once you've managed to gather these supplies, follow the steps below.

How To Build a Cartesian Diver

  1. Add water until the 2-liter bottle is full.
  2. Take your eyedropper, the "diver," and fill it with just enough water so that the top of the dropper is just buoyant enough to float on top of the water.
  3. Apply the lid to the 2-liter bottle. It must be airtight!
  4. Squeeze the bottle.
  5. Observe.

If you have successfully followed the instructions, your Cartesian diver should dive to the bottom as you squeeze the bottle. That's Boyle's law in action!

When you squeeze inward, you are reducing the volume of the bottle. As we know, this reduction in volume increases the pressure.

This increase in pressure pushes against the water, forcing more water up into the eyedropper. This additional water decreases the diver's buoyancy, causing it to "dive" to the bottom. Stop squeezing the bottle, and your diver will ascend back to the water's surface.

DIY Cartesian Diver (Video)

What Is the Ideal Gas Law?

Since it is hard to exactly describe a real gas, scientists created the concept of an ideal gas. The ideal gas law refers to a hypothetical gas that follows the rules listed below:

  1. Ideal gas molecules do not attract or repel each other. The only interaction between ideal gas molecules would be an elastic collision with each other or with the walls of the container.
  2. Ideal gas molecules themselves take up no volume. While the gas takes up volume, the ideal gas molecules are considered point particles that have no volume.

There are no gasses that are exactly ideal, but there are many that are close. This is why the ideal gas law is extremely useful when used as an approximation for many situations. The ideal gas law is obtained by combining Boyle's law, Charle's law, and Gay-Lussac's Law, three of the major gas laws.

What Is Charle's Law?

Charle's law, or the law of volumes, was discovered in 1787 by Jaques Charles and states that for a give mass of an ideal gas at constant pressure, the volume is directly proportional to it's absolute temperature. This means that as the temperature of a gas increases, so does its volume.

V / T = k

The equation of Charle's law is written above, with (V) representing volume, (T) representing temperature, and (k) representing a constant.

What Is Gay-Lussac's Law?

Gay Lussac's law, or the pressure law, was discovered by Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac in 1809 and states that, for a given mass and constant volume of an ideal gas, the pressure exerted on the sides of its container is directly proportional to its absolute temperature. This means that pressure indicates temperature.

P / T = k

The equation of Guy Lussac's law is written above, with (P) representing pressure, (T) representing temperature, and (k) representing a constant.

Portrait of Robert Boyle.
Portrait of Robert Boyle. | Source

How Does Boyle's Law Relate to Breathing?

When it comes to the effects of Boyle's law on the body, the gas law specifically applies to the lungs.

When a person breathes in, their lung volume increases and the pressure within decreases. Since air always moves from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, air is drawn into the lungs.

The opposite happens when a person exhales. Since the lung volume decreases, the pressure within increases, forcing the air out of the lungs to the lower pressure air outside of the body.

What Are the Two Stages of the Breathing Process?

The breathing process, sometimes called respiration, can be simply broken down into two stages: inhalation and exhalation.

Inhalation

During inhalation, also called inspiration, the diaphragm contracts and pulls downward and the muscles between the ribs contract and pull upward, increasing the volume of the lung cavity and decreasing the pressure within. As a result, air rushes in to fill the lungs.

Exhalation

During exhalation, also called expiration, the diaphragm relaxes and the volume of the lung cavity decreases while the pressure within increases. As a result, air is forced out.

How Do You Know When to Breathe?

Breathing is controlled by a respiratory control center at the base of your brain. This center sends signals down your spine that ensure your breathing muscles in your lungs contract and relax regularly.

Your breathing can change depending on how active you are, as well as on the condition of the air around you. Other factors that may affect your breathing include your emotions or deliberate actions such as holding your breath.

A Final Word

I did leave a certain application of Boyle's law out of this list that is used far more than any of the above examples. This system is directly powered by the rules of Boyle's law, and is a device you use every day, everywhere you go.

What is it? Comment your answer below!

© 2012 Steven Pearson

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    • profile image

      Vedu 

      4 weeks ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      Ayushi sharma 

      2 months ago

      Nice

    • profile image

      Sameer 

      4 months ago

      Thanks it was very helpful to me

    • profile image

      Jim H. 

      4 months ago

      Passing gas!

    • profile image

      Sandra 

      5 months ago

      boyles law is stupid because the more laws the more i have to study bye felcia fk life and school and everyhing else with it

    • profile image

      Tyron Smith 

      6 months ago

      I really enjoyed these examples!

    • profile image

      tanveerhussalvi 

      6 months ago

      you have done an excellent job in this article! you may check also

      Boyle's law formula derivation and examples in daily life

      http://guidancecorner.com/boyles-law/

    • profile image

      Steve 

      7 months ago

      Your example of the tire is wrong. It is a tire, there is no change to the volume. In that instance you are simply increasing the pressure thanks to fluid dynamics flow, causing the density of the fluid within the volume to increase. Again, you are not changing the Volume. More realistically you are slightly increasing the volume of the tire thanks to the pressure, until you pressurize to rupture.

    • profile image

      Murad 

      8 months ago

      More examples of Boyle's law

    • profile image

      april igpas 

      8 months ago

      Thanks for this!!

    • profile image

      Tony Q. 

      9 months ago

      My lungs.

    • profile image

      gg no re 

      9 months ago

      i don't understand or comprehend human logic

    • profile image

      narwhal 

      9 months ago

      I still don't get what boyle's law is

    • profile image

      Laura 

      9 months ago

      This is all completely wrong. Boyle's law only applies to a given mass of gas - typically in a closed system.

    • profile image

      Javier 

      10 months ago

      Thanks this article help me in my homework

    • profile image

      Scott Beesley 

      10 months ago

      Warriors BLEW 3-1 Lead

    • profile image

      Rianne Arellano Estojero 

      10 months ago

      How many examples in thereBoyle's Law ?

    • profile image

      Anna Preston 

      12 months ago

      Good Job! Excellent page!

    • profile image

      Let us copy paste 

      12 months ago

      No copy paste? I have to do a FACT SHEET!

    • profile image

      proud kannadiga 

      13 months ago

      super maga

    • profile image

      13 months ago

      popping ballon

    • profile image

      boss 

      15 months ago

      no dude

    • profile image

      Woah dude 

      18 months ago

      Woah dude

    • profile image

      Ohh 

      18 months ago

      Ohhhhh

    • profile image

      lennon.kennington025@sympatico.ca 

      18 months ago

      A vertical tank of 20ft. dia. as tall as the average tidal range in the Bay of Fundy (say 25ft.) Fixed to the sea bed with a sluice gate open at the bottom, and the top of the tank sealed, What would the air pressure be when it was high enough to prevent more water entering?

    • profile image

      Percy 

      18 months ago

      I think the mystery use is us breathing! It goes with us wherever we go.

    • profile image

      Genie 

      19 months ago

      This helped me a lot thanks a lot to the ones who did this piece of art.

    • profile image

      Paccy 

      19 months ago

      Thank you for this site, you helped in my assignment!!

    • profile image

      Auswin 

      19 months ago

      Thanks, this helped me in my physics homework for me.....

    • profile image

      cyrene 

      21 months ago

      how does boyle's law applied to medical respirator? please answer

    • mattforte profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Pearson 

      21 months ago from Spanaway, WA

      Curious_Me/Practical Teacher:

      No, while the volume does increase - the pressure increases faster than the volume. The tires to stretch a very tiny amount, but the air inside is becoming more and more dense. The volume of the gas itself is decreasing (inside the tower) even though the volume of the tire as a whole may be increasing a small bit.

      (It is important to realize the difference between the volume of a container, and the volume of individual molecules of gas.)

    • profile image

      Nicole 

      23 months ago

      I think that this is so helpful and I hope you post more things that will be this helpful. When you told me examples of Boyle's Law that was the most helful part. Voted up and helpful : )

    • profile image

      LarryFranck 

      24 months ago

      Cartesian Diver: If you don't have a medicine dropper, you could just use a ketchup packet instead.

      Fill your bottle almost full with water, throw your ketchup packet in, and close the lid tight. Works just as good.

    • profile image

      PracticalTeacher 

      2 years ago

      curious_me: You are right in pointing out that filling air into the air is an example that is more closer to Avogadro's law than Boyles Law. When air is pumped into a tire the volume increases following avogadro law which says that greater the amount (moles) of air, greater the volume. I think what the author is trying to get at is that when you pump air into the tires, the air outside (wherever it was initially) is getting squeezed into a smaller volume (ie. tire) and the air in the tire certainly is at a higher pressure than before.

    • profile image

      kd 

      2 years ago

      thank you for this site :) I've solved my homework.

    • profile image

      Aidan Kittilstved 

      3 years ago

      I think the Mystery Use is the oil storage/injection of a car

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Palen 

      3 years ago from Midwest USA

      Awesome idea to show real life examples. It always helps me to see concrete examples of ideas that are being taught. Amazing hub! I would love to see more science hubs like this!

    • profile image

      marwa abdallah 

      3 years ago

      Loved the way u make everything appear super simple thanx alot for simplifying my assignment:)

    • profile image

      Scott 

      3 years ago

      A great article indeed to satisfy the student and the old, old, student too!

    • mattforte profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Pearson 

      3 years ago from Spanaway, WA

      Oh, look at that. Didn't even notice I got HOTD until I was reading these comments lol.

      MsLizzy - the correct answer was posted below by Arvedui - it is your lungs ;-)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congrats on HOTD! Most interesting. I had never heard of Boyle's Law, although you are correct in its daily effects.

      Perhaps you can explain, however, why, if a can of soda pop (only works on CANS, not plastic bottles) gets accidentally jostled just before you open it, by sharply rapping your finger tip on top of the can a few times, you can avoid that explosive event upon popping the top open?

      As for the device we use daily wherever we go, I'm going to guess it has to do with cars, and either the carburetor or fuel-injection system.

      Voted up ++

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Though I've read this hub a while ago, congrats on HOTD!

    • vasantha  T k profile image

      vasantha T k 

      3 years ago from Bangalore

      Very useful hub for the students and good examples given. Voted up!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      3 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for an interesting post that includes a neat science experiment!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      3 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on your HOTD~ Very interesting, and I voted it as such. You explained Boyle's Law so I could understand the concept. Thanks.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      This was real interesting to know about Boyle's Law, since I never took chemistry in school. Real great information to know about it. Voted up and useful!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      3 years ago from Ljubljana

      Boyle's law is one of the basic laws in natural sciences, and I think everybody should know it and understand it. It's great to see an explanation with so many real life examples. Great job!

    • profile image

      Dan Hath 

      3 years ago

      By the way, great work! I enjoyed your approach in explaining Boyle's law and the many examples that helped me wrap my head around the concept. Sorry for the double post, I had issues going to edit my post so I could add an extra comment in.

    • profile image

      Dan Hath 

      3 years ago

      I can't remember what law it is, but Boyle's law sounds like what I was taught takes place in the combustion chamber of a motor. It is a law that has to do with the pressure of the gas air mixture progressively getting higher (and hotter) as the piston of a motor compresses the mixture before it combusts. Diesel motors take advantage of the law as they don't have spark plugs but glow plugs. The intense compression ratio heats up the mixture causing it to ignite near the top dead center cycle of the piston. If it's not Boyle's law, then I am curious to find out what it is. I am also very curious what you are hinting at. As my solution is what takes place in a combustion chamber of an internal combustion motor.

    • profile image

      ramya 

      3 years ago

      Wonderful discription

    • profile image

      mehmood 

      3 years ago

      thanks a lot ...what a simple description,it helped me a lot for my assignment.

    • mattforte profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Pearson 

      3 years ago from Spanaway, WA

      Curious:

      I suppose the wording can be a bit funny. "Volume" in this case isn't necessarily referring to the amount of space inside the tire - but the volume of the gas molecules. As you push more and more air into the tire, the gas molecules are being compressed, thereby reducing the volume of each molecule of gas (not the tire itself), which creates a higher air density.

    • profile image

      curious_me 

      3 years ago

      Hi! I liked your article :) It makes science a lot practical to know :) However, I cannot visualize much how filling up tires demonstrates Boyle's Law. How can the volume reduce as pressure is increased? The expansion of the tire indicates increase in volume, right? If this is so, then as air is added to the tire, volume increases and pressure increases as seen in the gauge reading, which defies Boyle's Law. My question is how do I reconcile these contradicting views. Thanks! :)

    • profile image

      medini 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for this examples of boyls law ut had helped me a lot :-)♡cool yar♡♡♡

    • deepthiveera profile image

      deepthiveera 

      4 years ago from Cumbum, Tamil Nadu, India

      Very interesting to read all those good examples for Boyle's law. Thank you mattforte, for sharing this scientific truth with nice photos and explanations. Voted Up!

    • profile image

      blaze 

      4 years ago

      thakxxx because of this article i can already answer

      my assignments

    • profile image

      YaraMAriano 

      5 years ago

      Chemistry is everywhere around the globe. Very useful :)

    • cuttler profile image

      Cuttler 

      5 years ago from HubPages

      interesting...so much to share with my students here. got just what i needed. thank you for sharing

    • profile image

      Michele 

      5 years ago

      Breathing!

    • mattforte profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Pearson 

      6 years ago from Spanaway, WA

      Lungs absolutely right! Somebody finally got it! :)

    • profile image

      Arvedui 

      6 years ago

      Lungs!

    • profile image

      jea alvior 

      6 years ago

      thank you po dahil dito may assignment na ako!!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Let's see...a system you left out...hyperbaric chamber? Osmosis that happens in the body, you know with the sodium-potassium pumps? The beating heart and the pressure it exerts to make blood pressure?

      Anyway, great hub. You could be a physics teacher. I remember doing a unit on Boyle's Law. I don't remember the experiments we did, but I do remember making sine and cosine waves with soda bottles dangling in the air, throwing bowling balls off of school buildings and using a Van der Waal's generator (I think that's how it's spelled) to "electrocute" ourselves. Hehe. Great hub...you brought back lots of memories. :)

    • mattforte profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Pearson 

      6 years ago from Spanaway, WA

      Lisa

      Nothing to do with a car ;-)

      Scottgruber

      Woops! It was a NASA technician, not an astronaut. My mind was elsewhere as I wrote that apparently. ADHD ftw!

      PeggyW

      Yes, science is a wonderful thing, and most of it is a lot easier than people generally believe. If we teach concepts, rather than extreme detail and advanced mathematics, then it becomes amazingly simple.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It is obvious that you really do like science which I read in your profile. Thanks for the primer on Boyle's Law. Voted up and interesting.

    • scottcgruber profile image

      scottcgruber 

      6 years ago from USA

      Interesting stuff! I hadn't heard about the astronaut who was exposed to space vacuum - who was it?

      A more tragic example was Soyuz 11 - three cosmonauts died when their capsule depressurized before reentry.

    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 

      6 years ago from WA

      I'm not sure what the last example could be. Maybe something to do with a car?

      Anyway, I really liked this article. It's simple, easy to follow, and reminds me of chemistry class in the good old days of highschool/community college. Voted up and useful :)

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