Bubbling Lava Lamp
Lava lamps hold a special place in pop culture history, but there is a lot of science that we can learn from them, too. With the Bubbling Lava Lamp, you'll learn how to make a homemade, kid-safe lava lamp using materials right in your home. With a soda bottle, oil and water, and a secret ingredient that makes the whole thing fizz, bubble, and erupt, you'll have a colorful concoction you will love.
- Clean, plastic soda bottle, glass, jar, or Baby Soda Bottle Test Tube
- Soda bottle cap
- Vegetable oil (the cheaper the better)
- Food coloring
- Alka-Seltzer tablet or Fizzy Tablets
- Fill the bottle 3/4 full with vegetable oil.
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water (almost to the top but not overflowing).
- Add about 10 drops of food coloring. Be sure to make the water fairly dark in color. Notice that the food coloring only colors the water and not the oil. Hmmm...
- Divide the Alka-Seltzer tablet into 8 pieces.
- Drop one of the tiny pieces of Alka-Seltzer into the oil and water mixture. Watch what happens. When the bubbling stops, add another chunk of Alka-Seltzer. It’s just like a lava lamp!
- If you want to make it even more "lave-like," put your bottle on a flashlight and turn the room lights off.
- When you have used up all of the Alka-Seltzer and the bubbling has completely stopped, screw on the soda bottle cap. Tip the bottle back and forth and watch a wave appear. The tiny droplets of liquid join together to make one big lava-like blob.
How Does It Work?
First of all, you confirmed what you already knew... oil and water do not mix. The molecules of water do not like to mix with the molecules of oil. Even if you try to shake up the bottle, the oil breaks up into small little drops, but the oil doesn’t mix with the water. Also, food coloring only mixes with water. It does not color the oil.
When you pour the water into the bottle with the oil, the water sinks to the bottom and the oil floats to the top. This is the same as when oil from a ship spills in the ocean. The oil floats on top of the water. Oil floats on the surface because water is heavier than oil. Scientists say that the water is more dense than the oil.
Here’s the surprising part... The Alka-Seltzer tablet reacts with the water to make tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and cause them to float to the surface. When the bubbles pop, the color blobs sink back to the bottom of the bottle. Now that’s a burst of color! Your own homemade lava lamp... groovy baby!
- Keep Them Coming! Review by Ed
We love to use the “wow items” for discrepant events in our Harris Super Science Saturday (HSSS) programs. Our students of poverty are severely lacking in background experiences that new learning needs to be connected to. Fascinating material can get their attention, motivate them and fill in some of the gaps they have because of their lack of experiences.
Magic sand, lava lamps in the baby soda bottle test tubes, and melting blocks are some of the things we use and just this past week I attended 2 of our nighttime HSSS Meet and Greets and saw again the reaction of students and their families to investigating these fascinating materials.
So keep them coming, Steve Spangler Science!!
(Posted on March 2, 2011)
- Awesome experiment!!! Review by Maddelyn
I loved it! It was so cool and I am doing it tomorrow at school and I think my class is going to lik it because in our whole class so far in doing our science experiments no-one has done a lava lamp:)really loved it!!!
(Posted on August 19, 2012)
- Fun and Interesting! Review by Cassie
This works very well, and it's very fun to watch! Uses few household items, and is inexpensive! Try this with your friends!
(Posted on December 23, 2009)
- The awesome experiment! Review by Mrs. Windsor's class
We had a lot of fun doing this experiment. It was really interesting to see the bubbles going up and down. The colors were very beautiful in the dark. The best colors were red, yellow and green! Wee blew up one of our bottles by putting in 4 whole tablets of Alka Seltzer then putting the cap on. It was OFF THE HOOK!
(Posted on April 20, 2012)
- School Science Review by Lilly
I did this experiment to my class as we had a chance to do any experiment we liked and it was AMAZING! No-one even my teacher knew you could do this. It was Great.. TRY THIS AT HOME and by the way, if you live in australia you can use berocca tablets instead of alka seltzer.
(Posted on August 11, 2010)
- Amazing Review by Karliegh Ramirez
This is an amazing, fun, and easy to do. It is amazing for a science fair!
(Posted on January 29, 2013)
- Make It Glow With Spangler Glow Liquid! Review by MargieS
We made these "lava lamps" for my son's 9th glow-in-the-dark slumber party. We used this recipe, except instead of coloring the water with food coloring, we put in some drops of glow liquid (purchased from this site.) Then the kids dropped in the Alka-Seltzer after we turned the regular lights off, and the black light on. It was AWESOME! The boys LOVED it! When the bubbling stopped, they dropped in more Alka-Seltzer, and then repeated that again and again! I purchased the Baby Soda Bottles/Test Tubes for the kids to use for this activity. I LOVE that you can push the bottom of the test tubes into its cap, and stand them! They were VERY stable! Each child took their filled test tube home (sealed after the bubbling stopped) and some extra Alka-Seltzer tablets. This was a HUGE hit!
(Posted on May 23, 2010)
- Awesome!!!!!!!!!!! Review by tommy
My friend and i loved it sooooooo much!!!! we want to do it many more times...... thinking about doin it 4 our science fair too!!!!!! (:
(Posted on January 27, 2013)
- Sarah Beth Review by Sarah Beth
I used this demonstration in a lesson plan presentation for one of my teacher education classes. It was a hit! It worked really well and was easy to use and clean up! Thanks for the great ideas!!
(Posted on November 17, 2009)
- experiment Review by kiara and jenni
it is sooo cool! it works well a and is very easy to clean up! THANKS!
(Posted on February 3, 2010)