Remember when Lava Lamps were cool in the ‘60s? Yeah neither do I. But even if you’re not a flower child from that era, you are going to absolutely LOVE this experiment. This experiment shows a colourful way to explain the powers of two of my favorite things: sodium bicarbonate and citric acid.
A vase or large glass water bottle
Food colouring (the more colours the better!)
Store brand Alka Seltzer
Grateful Dead music (this is entirely optional)
NOTE: Read carefully, this is very important - under no circumstances should you use an antique glass vase that has been in your family for generations. Especially if it is one that was handed down from your beloved Aunt Ida. Seriously, don’t do it! Just ask mum and dad to help get you one.
- Fill the vase or glass bottle about three quarters of the way full with the vegetable oil.
- Add about a half a cup of water or fill until there is only an inch or two of space left on top of your vase or bottle.
- Begin adding drops of the food colouring, probably six to seven drops depending on the size of your vase or bottle. I like to use a bunch of different colours but any amount or colour works. Keep adding the drops until your water is filled with colour.
- Cut the Alka Seltzer tablets into fourths and drop one of the quarters into the water.
- Now wait for it … wait for it … wait for it ... BUBBLES!!
- Tap play on the Grateful Dead music (again, this part is optional) to bring home the full effect of the time warp.
- After a few minutes, when the bubbles begin to slow down, you can add another quarter piece of Alka Seltzer for a quick recharge.
- Now it’s time to get creative. Try throwing sugar, salt, or even goldfish crackers into the water and seeing the different reactions.
This experiment is a fun way to demonstrate how sodium bicarbonate and citric acid (the two main ingredients in Alka Seltzer) react.
When the tablet hits the water and begins to dissolve, all the ingredients mix together and carbon dioxide is released in the form of bubbles rising to the top. The bubbles work to mix the oil and coloured water (and remember, water and oil prefer to stay apart from each other)
Now sit back and behold the hypnotizing powers of the lava lamp. Move it around in your hand and watch as the liquid gels and separates into different shapes and colours.
Meditate on the wonders of the universe! And the wonders of sodium bicarbonate!
And please … turn that terrible hippie music off.