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Fun with Dry Ice!

Updated on March 27, 2012
A Couple of 1"x2" Pieces of Dry Ice Subliming
A Couple of 1"x2" Pieces of Dry Ice Subliming
"Mad Scientist" Cocktail!
"Mad Scientist" Cocktail!

Dry ice is a molecular compound that has a variety of uses, and some of them can be lots of fun. In this article, we will do some experiments with dry ice. They are very easy to do, you just need to follow the necessary safety precautions to prevent frostbite.

Dry ice isn't the typical ice that you are used to. It isn't made of water. It is actually frozen carbon dioxide! In fact, if you allow a piece of dry ice to dissolve in a liquid, the resulting liquid is now carbonated. You can use this to experiment with making your own soda. The temperature of dry ice is -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees Celsius for my European friends), so it is imperative that you handle it with thick gloves (leather works great). A slight fog comes off of dry ice, which is actually the frozen carbon dioxide converting directly into carbon dioxide gas. This is known as sublimation. Liquid carbon dioxide is very volatile, and can only contained in a highly pressurized vessel (CO2 cartridges, for example). So, now that you have the background, let's do some experiments!

Making Fog with Dry Ice

In this experiment, we are taking advantage of dry ice's sublimation characteristics and accelerating them. In ambient air, sublimation is actually a slow process, especially the colder the ambient air. When a piece of dry ice is added to water, the surfaces are in contact with a lot more molecules than in air, transferring heat more rapidly, and therefore, "melting" faster. If the water was really cold, the process would slow down, but it is still more effective than air exposure. Making fog is as simple as adding dry ice to water, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the thickest, most effective, long-lasting fog. They are:

  • Use warm water with a water-to-dry-ice ratio of 3:1
  • Use a deep plastic container to allow the fog to build up in thickness before it rolls out
  • Use a fan to direct the fog into a focused flow
  • If possible, circulate the water in the container since dry ice is less effective as the water becomes more carbonated.

Making Fog with Dry Ice

Making Dry Ice Fog Foam

In this experiment, all you have to do is start with soapy water instead of plain water. You can also add dish soap to the first experiment while it's reacting to get the same effect. What happens is that the volatility of the reaction is causing the soap to make bubbles, which are inflated with the dry ice fog. So, when you pop them, out comes the fog. This pile of bubbles can also be scooped up pretty easily and played around with, as you will see at the end of the video below.

Make Dry Ice Fog Foam

Make a Dry Ice "Crystal Ball"

This experiment is one of my favorites, but it is a little tricky. Start with a pie dish or something comparably sized to fit your hand in to. Fill it halfway with some soapy water. Begin reacting some dry ice with water as in the first experiment, dip your hand into the soapy water, and then drag it across the top of the glass to create a bubble film. You have to do it slowly and carefully, but you will get the hang of it after a few times. The key thing to listen for so that you know you have started the bubble properly is that the sound level of the CO2 bubbles will decrease. Watch the video below to see the ensuing coolness...no pun intended.

Make a Dry Ice "Crystal Ball"

Extinguish a Flame with Dry Ice

In this experiment, we are replicating the function of a common CO2 fire extinguisher. As I mentioned before, carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so when it is placed over a flame, the gas blankets it, pushing out any available oxygen or flammable vapors, extinguishing the flame. Fire extinguishers expel their contents quickly, as the flames they battle are large. We will replicate this effect, just much slower. When doing this experiment, use a lower level of water so that you don't accidentally pour water onto the flame as well. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Extinguish a Flame with Dry Ice

So, there you have it! Some COOL stuff to do with dry ice. There are thousands of other uses for dry ice, and if you are interested in finding out more about those uses, or if you want to locate your nearest dry ice distributor, visit http://www.dryiceideas.com. Thank you for reading, and feel free to comment or ask any questions that you may have!

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    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This is one cool hub! I've always been intriqued by dry ice and with all the information you supplied I need to go get some and have some fun! Excellent article!

    • chrisfitzgerald profile image
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      chrisfitzgerald 5 years ago from Aiken, South Carolina

      Thank you so much, Sunshine625! I have eight more great experiments planned, so stay tuned. Also, if you decide to do an article on your own experiments, feel free to link to it in these comments so I can take a look!

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