Lava Lamp Science Project

Lava Lamp Science Project

Make your own colorful, bubbling lamp with this fun science experiment about mixing up unmixable liquids! 

Ages:
5 - 16
Est. Time:
<30 mins

How we did it:

Materials List

  1. container
  2. vegetable oil
  3. water
  4. food coloring
  5. fizzy tablets
  1. Learn More!

    Oil and water famously don’t mix well. You might even describe two people who don’t get along as like oil and water. But oil and water don’t avoid mixing because they don’t like each other: it’s because of their chemistry!


    You know how water can form itself into a droplet on pretty much any surface? That’s because, at the way WAY zoomed in level, every molecule of water is attracted to every other molecule of water. It’s kind of like they’re little magnets. They zoom together and clump up instead of spreading out all over the place.


    There are lots of other molecules that water is attracted to in the same way. Oil is not one of them. Oil is a special kind of molecule that water isn’t attracted to at all. So when any water gets mixed in with oil, the water won’t interact with it. Instead, the water pushes through the oil to clump up with other water molecules. Just like a handful of magnets would do if you threw them in a bucket of, well, water.


    Oil and water separate because water is so attracted to itself and not attracted to oil. But maybe there’s a way to make them mix? Maybe by tossing in something fizzy that makes the water bubble? Shake things up and find out below!


  2. Step 1

    Gather your materials. 

  3. Step 2

    Fill the container full with vegetable oil. 

  4. Tip!

    We used a funnel, but it’s not necessary! 

  5. Step 3

    Fill the rest of the container (almost to the top!) with water. If the container is too full it might overflow when you add the fizzy tablets! 

  6. Step 4

    Add a few drops of food coloring. They should sink to the bottom of the container and color the water. 

  7. Step 5

    Break up a fizzy tablet and drop it into the container and watch your lava lamp come to life! 

  8. Learn More!

    Try making a glow-in-the dark lava lamp by using quinine water (and no food coloring) instead of tap water. Place your lava lamp under a blacklight to light it up!