Week 16 (2-13-14) Layering Liquids

For this experiment being one of the simplest, I’d never done it ’til now. Layer liquids.

So I made our first attempt at home with my kids. And inadvertently added vinegar to the list of liquids.

Fail #1.


We learned right away that adding food coloring to oil, wasn’t going to produce colored oil. Just spotted oil. Ya gotta leave the oil alone. Fail #2.


What we were trying to do was pick colors for each liquid, so that we would end up with colorful layers. Like the guys have who make it look super simple online.

Here’s what we got.


Corn syrup on the bottom, then dish soap, water, supposedly vegetable oil followed by isopropyl alcohol on top.

Only the isopropyl alcohol we were using was 50% alcohol. The other 50% was water. Which is why that thin little colored line on top is the true alcohol rising. The rest of the “alcohol” fell to the water level. Because the two liquids–water and alcohol–had originally been two different colors, the two “waters” merged and turned a type of rust color.


We’ve got a similar set-up in class.


What we want to do first, however, is guess which of the liquids we think is the most dense and write in on our sheet.


Then we determine which color we’d like to give each of our liquids.

Seems reasonable, right?

Fail #3.  Only we don’t know that yet.


We looked first at what food coloring does in oil. In fact, we could even scoop it out with a spoon. Might have been the coolest thing all day.


Then we gave all of our liquids–minus the oil–a color.

Corn syrup–green. Dish soap–blue. Water–red. Oil–oil. Alcohol–purple.


Then on our sheets we drew a jar, gave it five layers, and then color-coded each layer so that it matched our guesses.


If we had written down that corn syrup would be on the bottom layer, then we would have colored our bottom layer green because that was the color we had made the corn syrup.


It should be noted, I suppose, that we did use 70% isopropyl alcohol. Hard to tell, though, if it made a difference.

So here’s our jar with all the layers.


Tricky to determine even a single layer.


Here we can see the green corn syrup on the bottom all right. Followed by the blue dish soap.


But my, even with the help of a flashlight, the middle layers are difficult to discern.


And so our extra effort to color our liquids to get pretty layers worked against us. When we dropped items into the jar, unless they floated at the top, or sunk to the bottom, we couldn’t tell where they were.



Here’s the real order of how our liquids layered up. Or should have.


This had to end better.

So I gave it one more try at home. This time not using food coloring except for the alcohol, which we colored red. The dish soap was already blue.

Can you see the layers all right?

The clear bottom layer is the corn syrup. The blue is the dish soap. In the middle–the light blue–is the water. The dish soap must have some water in it. The top layer is the vegetable oil.


Here it is again. We haven’t added the alcohol yet.


Now here it is with the alcohol.

Which is wild again, as the alcohol, sinks to the water level because a good portion of it is water. What we can see on top is a thin layer of red, where what really is alcohol is resting.


If you get the whim to try this at your house, please–skip the food coloring or any other fancy step! You’ll enjoy something so much prettier!


This entry was posted in Experiments, Picture post and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s