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Experiment: Floating Fireworks!

Experiment Instructions:

Transform ordinary pantry items into a dazzling display of science in a few easy steps!

What You Need:

  • A clean, empty glass jar
  • Food colouring (any colour you’d like!)
  • Warm water from the tap
  • 3 tablespoons of cooking oil

Let’s Make It!

  1. Fill your glass jar almost all the way up with warm water.
  2. In a different bowl, measure out 3 tablespoons of oil.
  3. Now, it’s time to make it colourful! Drop some food colouring into the oil. 
  4. Take a fork and gently mix the oil and colour drops. You’ll see the colours form little balls within the oil. They don’t mix; they just create tiny beads.
  5. Carefully pour your colourful oil into the jar with warm water.
  6. Watch what happens! The colour drops will start to fall out of the oil and into the water, spreading out like little fireworks.

Why Does It Happen?

This occurs because oil and water don’t like to mix, similar to how oil floats on top of water. This is because oil and water have different densities. Density is a way of describing how heavy something is for its size. The colour drops are denser than oil, so they fall through the oil layer. Since food colouring is mainly made of water, when it hits the water, the colour beads fall through the oil into the water. It looks like fireworks because they spread out mixing with the water creating beautiful colours.

It’s like a colour party in the jar!

Come and see more experiments like this at Tūhura Otago Museum in our science show on weekends and holidays. For more exciting science visit us at Tūhura Science Centre!

<Check out how to make your own Oobleck!>

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