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Dry Ice Smoking Bubbles

Bubbles, smoke, and fog all add-up to make a unique hands-on Halloween experience.

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We know that dry ice is incredibly fun to use in experiments - it's because of the awesome fog you get when you combine the ultra-cold ice with warm water! Now if you could only figure out a way to actually grab and hold that elusive smoke in your hands. With the Dry Ice Smoking Bubbles experiment, you can! By creating smoke-filled bubbles that you can hold in your hands, you make dry ice fun an experience that everyone can really "grasp."

Materials
  • Dry ice
  • Hammer
  • Dish soap
  • Graduated cylinder (or similar container)
  • Heavy glove
  • Warm water
  • Safety glasses
  • Food coloring or Fizzers (optional)

Videos

  • Smoking Bubbles - Sick Science! #111
Print Experiment

Experiment

  1. Fill your graduated cylinder half-full with warm water. If you don't have a graduated cylinder laying around, you can use something similar, like a flower vase or another tall, narrow container.

    NOTE: Before handling any dry ice, put on a pair of heavy gloves. Dry ice is so cold (-110ºF/-78ºC) that it will burn your skin!
     
  2. Make sure that you have pieces of dry ice that are smalle enough to fit inside your graduated cylinder. If not, put on a pair of safety glasses and use a hammer to break the dry ice into smaller pieces.
  3. Once you've created the small pieces, drop a few into the graduated cylinder. Once in the water, the dry ice will begin bubbling and producing a smoke within the cylinder. Eventually the smoke flows right over the top.
  4. Take your bubbling, smoking cylinder to a whole new level with… soap? That's right, just put a squirt of dish soap into the cylinder and watch what happens! Before you know it, a column of bubbles begins to form at the mouth of your cylinder.
  5. Don't be afraid, grab those bubbles and give them a squeeze! These bubbles burst with an amazing explosion of fog.

Take It Further!

Try adding some fun effects or adjusting ingredients to your smoking bubbles:

  • Add a few drops of food coloring or our Fizzers.
  • Use a glow stick to create an eerie brew.
  • Try adding some of our Atomic Glow for glow-in-the-dark fun.
  • Experiment with using more or less soap and dry ice.

How Does It Work?

When you add dry ice to warm water, you immediately see the dry ice begin to bubble and create fog within its container. This effect, which we've lovingly titled "burping, bubbling, smoking water" is directly caused by the rapid warming of the dry ice. Dry ice is frozen, compressed carbon dioxide gas and when you add it to warm water, it combines with the water to create the fog (carbon dioxide and water vapor) that you see bubbling out of your cylinder.

Adding soap to burping, bubbling, smoking water creates a whole new effect. Instead of the dry ice just bubbling in the water to make a cloud, the soap in the water traps the carbon dioxide and water vapor in a soapy bubble. Bursting the bubbles in your hands (or as they flow out of the cylinder) releases the gases in a brilliant cascade of fog.

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