Thursday, March 15, 2012

Party Trick: Flying Fiery Tea Bags

How do you make a tea bag fly? Simple: Set it on fire.

This fun and simple science experiment is a great way to learn about the physics of convection currents. Below is a step-by-step guide to making your own flying tea bags at home (Note to our younger readers: Make sure you have adult supervision before trying this experiment).

1. Get an appropriate tea bag (apparently most Lipton tea bags don't work for this experiment).

2. Remove the tiny staple and string from the top of the tea bag.

3. Empty out the tea leaves and unfold the tea bag.

4. Form the bag into a cylinder, as shown in the video, and set it upright on a flat, non-flammable surface.

5. Set it on fire, and watch it fly!

How it works

As the flame flows down the tea bag, hot air starts to accumulate within the cylinder. Eventually, this hot air concentrates in the bottom of the cylinder as the flame reaches the bottom of the tea bag.

Because the air molecules in the hot air are relatively spread out (less dense), they push up through the cylinder toward the colder (more dense) air, creating a current. The force of this current isn't enough to lift the tea bag until it's almost completely burned. Once the ashen tea bag skeleton burns thoroughly, it becomes light enough for the convection current to launch it into the air.

So there you have it: a fun experiment to try at home or, in this case, the office. For another fun experiment, see our previous post on how (not) to create a fire tornado.


  1. It is funny but good also and studable

  2. hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

  3. Arizona tea bags work great!(:

  4. I LOVE all this! I am attending a "busy bag swap" in May. I may steal one of these super cute ideas!! Can you please tell me where you found the little containers for the noodle stringing??

  5. If you didn't have patience (like me) you would think that the experiment had failed because you actually need to wait for the entire teabag to burn up before its base which is barely there finally flies up into the air. Ok, I will go back and try this simple yet fun experiment and could use it as an interactive teaching method to teach the kids a lesson or two about convection current. How convenient! I have to ensure though that I do not burn any silver lining in the teabox as it catches fire easily.