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Make an Alka-Seltzer Powered Lava Lamp

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14 buddy reviews
by Teisha Rowland, PhD
Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
lava lamp, chemical reactions, carbonation, temperature
Lava lamps made from water, food coloring, vegetable oil, and drinking bottles and powered by Alka Seltzer tablets.

Introduction

Have you ever seen a lava lamp? They were the height of 1960's "groovy" room decorations. A few minutes after turning it on, a lava lamp has blobs of colored liquid floating towards the top of the lamp and then drifting back down. Making an actual lava lamp that you plug in would require some effort and unusual supplies, but you can create a non-electric version in just a few minutes with the help of the fizzing power of Alka-Seltzer. In this activity you can find out how to make your own Alka-Seltzer® lava lamp. How will changing the temperature of the ingredients change the behavior of the colorful blobs in your lava lamp?

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Tall identical jars or bottles, such as empty, clear, plastic 1-liter or 2-liter bottles (2)
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Timer or clock that shows seconds
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Vegetable oil (enough to fill the jars nearly full)
  • An Alka-Seltzer tablet. Only one tablet is needed for the activity, but having additional tablets can be fun if you wanted to repeat lava lamp action.
  • A way to make one jar hot and one cold, such as by using a large bowl filled with hot water and access to a refrigerator or freezer
    Photograph of materials needed to make a homemade Alka Seltzer powered lava lamp.
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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
lava lamp, chemical reactions, carbonation, temperature