Fun with dry ice

Ways to get dry ice:

Remember the Omaha hamburger deal?  They didn’t like the fact that we combined 2 specials, so we only received 8-5 oz burgers for our $1.98, but we received an unexpected bonus:  dry ice!

If you’ve never experimented with dry ice, I suggest you go right to WalMart and get a pound or two.  Mucho fun for very little money!

Here are a few of the fun dry ice activities we did:

1. Screaming spoon – Lay a spoon or other piece of metal firmly against a chunk of dry ice.  It will rapidly sublime where the spoon is touching and the expanding gas will force the spoon away.  Then the sublimation slows and the spoon touches it again.  This process is repeated so rapidly that the spoon vibrates audibly.  Try it with other shapes and sizes of metal.

2. Supercooled liquid – Drop a small chunk into a cup of rubbing alcohol.  The liquid will cool to far below the freezing temperature of water.  Try dropping a flower into it; the flower should freeze very quickly.  Our rubbing alcohol eventually turned to slush.  This happens atabout -120 degrees.  (Is this possible or likely?  Is there another explanation for our slushy rubbing alcohol?)

3. Vaporize it – Drop a small chunk into a cup of water, and watch what happens.  Is it boiling?  Can you explain it?  Compare the effects of cold water vs. hot water, and different proportions of water to dry ice.  Why does it make a difference?  Why does it slow down after a little while?


4. Trap it – Hide a couple of cups of water/dry ice in a small cabinet.  Give them a few minutes to work then peek in.  Vapor will pour out as you open the door.

5. Supersize it – Fill the sink or an ice cream bucket with an inch or two of hot water and drop a bigger chunk of dry ice into it.  Watch the accumulating vapor move in waves like a ghostly ocean.  Dip your hand into the vapor and watch your fingers disappear.  Cup your hands and gently scoop up a handful.


6. Playing with fire – Light a candle in a votive cup, jar or other small enclosed area.  Tip your bubbling cup of water/dry ice and carefully spill some of the vapor onto the candle.  Set your bubbling cup down into the sink with a lit candle.  What happens as the carbon dioxide vapor accumulates in the sink?

7. Bubble fun – Add a drop or two of dish soap to a cup of water, then drop a chunk of dry ice into it.  Why do the bubbles look “funny”?  Pop one.  What’s in it?

8. More bubble fun – Put some water in a cup and drop in a small chunk of dry ice.  Spread a bit of dish soap around the rim of the cup.  Now get your hand wet and wipe your hand in one slow smooth motion across the top of the cup to create a big bubble covering the opening.  This is a little tricky the first time, but easier than it sounds.  Watch what happens!

More fun with dry ice:

A couple of warnings about playing with dry ice:

  • Do not touch dry ice directly.  Dry ice can cause frostbite almost instantly.  Use gloves, tongs or a spoon, and keep a close eye on little people.
  • Do not put dry ice in an airtight container. It will create an enormous amount of pressure and quite possibly burst.  Yes, it sounds fun, but it’s also very dangerous and possibly illegal.  Let’s skip this idea, ok people?

Comments

  1. Cool! I am going to add some of these ideas to my list. I went (with 4 other moms from our local homeschool group) to a Mom’s Science Retreat. We had a blast. Dry ice FUN was only a small part of our learning, but soooooo coooooool!!!!!

  2. What a great link! I can’twait to try this out. Has anyone else done it?

  3. Make ice cream in 20 seconds! (Here’s a link with instructions: http://chemistry.about.com/od/dryiceprojects/a/dryicecream.htm )

  4. Or use it to make homemade rootbeer. My mother does this every year at the 4th of July for the kids…and it is SO yummy!

  5. Ah bummer. When our Omaha package arrived, I wished we knew some experiments to do with dry ice. These would have been fun.

  6. Oh, I’m so disappointed my steaks came a few days ago and I missed out on all the fun suggestions!

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