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An inflatable is an object that can be inflated, usually with air, but hydrogen, helium and nitrogen are also used. The advantage of an inflatable is that it can be stored in a small space when not inflated, since inflatables depend on the presence of a gas to maintain their size and shape.
Typical examples of an inflatable include the inflatable boat, the balloon, the airship and numerous air-filled swimming pool toys.
Smaller-scale inflatables (such as pool toys) generally consist of one or more "air chambers", which are hollow enclosures bound by a soft and flexible airtight material (such as vinyl), which a gas can enter into or leave from through valves (usually one on each air chamber). The design dependence upon an enclosed pocket of gas leads to a need for a very durable surface material and/or ease of repair of tears and holes on the material, since a puncture or tear will result in the escape of the gas inside (a leak) and the deflation of the inflatable, which depends on the gas's pressure to hold its form. Detectable leaks can be caused by holes (from punctures or tears) on the material, the separating of seams, the separating of valve parts, or an improperly shut or improperly closing valve. Even if an inflatable possesses no macroscopic leaks, the gas inside will usually diffuse out of the inflatable, albeit at a much slower rate, until equilibrium is reached with the pressure outside the inflatable.
Most inflatables are made of material that does not stretch upon inflation; a notable exception of this is the balloon, whose rubber stretches greatly when inflated.
The airship is usually inflated with helium as it is lighter than air and does not burn unlike hydrogen airships such as the Hindenburg.
Inflatables are also used for the construction of specific sports pitches.
The DVD Ant Farm has directions for making your own inflatables, using plastic bags and an iron.
A patent was granted in Australia in 2001 for a "Manually portable and inflatable automobile" (Australian Patent Number 2001100029), however no known practical form of this type of inflatable has yet been commercialised. 
Large scale inflatables are often seen at festivals as decorations or inflatable games. These are made out of rip stop nylon and have a constant flow of air from a blower inflating them.
Additional recommended knowledge
Inflatables for entertainment
The original inflatable game was the Moonwalk (bounce house). Today there are a wide variety of inflatable games that come in all shapes and sizes. Many inflatable games put people in head to head competition with other people such as the bungee run and gladiator joust. There are also several inflatable obstacle courses available. Because of their large size, most obstacle courses consist of two or more inflatables connected together.
There are also several variations on sports games which are made portable thanks to inflatables. A sports cage is an inflatable cage that holds up a backdrop that resembles a sport (e.g. baseball, American football, soccer, golf) in which you throw, toss, hit or kick a ball at a marked spot on the backdrop. The cage not only holds the backdrop but keeps balls from flying everywhere. Some sports cages come with a radar gun that will tell you the speed of your throw or kick.
During the 2000s, inflatables have replaced the plastic blow-molded yard decorations used as Christmas décor at many U.S. homes, and are also now used as Halloween décor and for other occasions as well.
These are made of a synthetic fabric, of which different colors have been sewn together in various patterns. An electric blower contantly forces air into the figure, replacing air lost through its fabric and seams. They are internally lit by small C7 incandescent light bulbs (also used in nightlights), which are covered by translucent plastic snap-on globes that protect the fabric from the heat if they should rest against it.
Inflatables come in various sizes, commonly four feet or 1.2 meters tall (operated with a low-voltage DC power supply and a computer fan), and six or eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) tall, running directly from AC mains electricity. Like inflatable rides, outdoor types are staked to the ground with guy wires (usually synthetic rope or flat straps) to keep them upright in the wind, though being rather flimsy this does not always work. Heavy snow or rainwater which has accumulated may also prevent proper inflation.
While these store compactly, there are disadvantages, including the large amount of electricity needed to contantly keep them inflated. While they can be turned off in the daytime, this leaves the figure deflated, and subject to the rain and snow problem. Freezing rain, heavy snow, or high winds may also cause inflated ones to collapse. Additionally, like a tent, they must be completely dry before being packed for storage, or mildew may be a problem (especially if kept in a basement).
Decorative inflatables are made in many popular characters, including Santa Claus and snowmen for Christmas, and ghosts and jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. Several trademarked characters are also produced, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Winnie the Pooh, and Snoopy and Woodstock from Peanuts. There are also walk-though arches and "haunted houses" for children, and items for other holidays like Uncle Sam for Independence Day, and palm trees for backyard summer cookouts.
Since 2005, there are also inflatable snow globes which blow tiny styrofoam beads around on the inside, the blower's air jet picking them up and through a tube to the top, where they fall down inside the clear vinyl front. On others, mainly for Halloween, lightweight foam bats or ghosts spin around like confetti in what is called a "tornado globe". The figures inside both types are also inflatables.
Since 2006, several of these have motion, which is driven by the air itself and the Venturi effect. The original is a merry-go-round (usually surrounded by clear vinyl for support), another from 2007 is an airplane with moving propeller. Ghosts may also have streamers which blow around where the air escapes.
Examples of inflatables
(plus various other inflatable swimming pool toys of various shapes and sizes)
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Inflatable". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|