At Maker Faire Cape Town, every stand and attendee showcased something that drew our attention. Standing out in the crowds took something truly special – or, as was the case with Heath Nash, something truly bizarre.

At first glance, Nash’s stand looked like a recycling stall; it was littered with plastic shopping bags – the sort you begrudgingly pay for during your monthly shop and then throw into a dark cupboard for the rest of eternity.

When we asked Nash what it was he was doing with them he cheerily replied with “we’re making a hot air balloon from plastic bags powered by the sun”.

If you can't fix it with duct tape you haven't used enough
If you can’t fix it with duct tape you haven’t used enough

We asked Heath where he came up with the idea and he said it was inspired by the work of Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno and his Becoming Aerosolar project. Becoming Aerosolar is a collaborative project which included a giant balloon made of plastic bags collected by the public, the Museo Aero Solar, taped together to create a balloon which floats as it is heated by the sun. The Museo Aero Solar has apparently flown to 21 countries, and was on show in Frankfurt, Germany Vienna, Austria until the end of August this year.

Nash was building his own homage to Muse Aero Solar in Cape Town. Eventually, the density of the air around the massive balloon will become less than the density of the air inside it, and it will lift off. In theory if you have a balloon 30 480 cubic metres in size with air heated to approximately 99 degrees celsius you could lift up to 720kg quite easily using nothing but the power of the sun.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to see Nash complete his balloon but he did make a relatively big dent in the amount of work still to be done before Maker Faire closed for the day. However, if you, like us, want to see this feat of science in action check out Saraceno’s video below.


makers.htxt.africa attended Maker Faire Cape Town as a guest of CAD House and Sahara Systems, two of South Africa’s leading suppliers of 3D printers and maker gear.

//Update 15/9

This article was corrected to clarify details of the original artwork by Tomas Saraceno, which was a collaborative project not a personal one, on show in Vienna not Frankfurt.