Effusion
Encyclopedia
In physics, effusion is the process in which individual molecules flow through a hole without collisions between molecules. This occurs if the diameter of the hole is considerably smaller than the mean free path
Mean free path
In physics, the mean free path is the average distance covered by a moving particle between successive impacts which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties.-Derivation:...

of the molecules. According to Graham's law
Graham's law
Graham's law, known as Graham's law of effusion, was formulated by Scottish physical chemist Thomas Graham in 1846. Graham found experimentally that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of the mass of its particles...

, the rate at which gases effuse (i.e., how many molecules pass through the hole per second) is dependent on their molecular weight; gases with a lower molecular weight effuse more quickly than gases with a higher molecular weight. For two gases at the same temperature (and having the same specific heat), and thus having the same kinetic energy, the root mean square
Root mean square
In mathematics, the root mean square , also known as the quadratic mean, is a statistical measure of the magnitude of a varying quantity. It is especially useful when variates are positive and negative, e.g., sinusoids...

molecular speed, vrms, of each gas can be found using the equation
kBT = mv

where kB is the Boltzmann constant. Thus, lighter molecules have a higher speed. This results in more molecules passing through the hole per unit time. This is why a balloon filled with low molecular weight hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

left alone for a reasonable amount of time deflates faster than an equivalent balloon full of higher molecular weight oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

.