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How to Make Your Own Volcano

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 11 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Make Your Own Volcano Volcano Volcanic

Of course, kids love anything that explodes, makes a bit of a mess and provides them with hours of fun. If you’re keen on your children learning whilst they have fun, then this project will be just what you’re looking for. This article describes how to make your own volcano, using just a few basic household products.

Before You Begin

When this project proves a success, it always proves pretty messy! Before you make your own volcano, it’s a good idea if you don an apron and your kids change into some old clothes. You should also prepare your activity area by laying down some newspaper, working on a raised platform. Ideally, if possible, you should opt to work outside, as the end result is quite chaotic!

The Basic Science Behind the ‘Experiment’

If you’d like to explain the ‘science’ behind your home-made volcano, it’s also worth arming yourself with some basic knowledge about the chemical reaction that causes the volcano’s ‘eruption’.

In nature, volcanoes are like vents that reach deep under the earth’s crust. A volcanic eruption occurs due to a build up of pressure from the magma chamber deep within the volcano. The magma chamber builds pressure, usually for a number of years, and eventually the build up of pressure climaxes, causing an eruption. Some eruptions can be small and result in slow lava flows, whilst others can be devastatingly explosive, spewing ash, molten rock and lava for miles around.

To recreate an eruption, you can simply mix two chemicals together to create the explosive type of eruption. This equation shows what happens when the two chemicals used in this experiment are combined:

Acetic Acid (Vinegar) + Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) = Water + Carbon Dioxide Gas + Sodium Acetate, or:

HC2H3O2 + NaHCO3 = H2O + CO2 + NaC2H3O2

As you can see, one product of the chemical interaction is gas, which is the primary factor behind the explosion.

What You’ll Need

To get started, you’ll need a few materials and ‘ingredients’:

  • Large Saucepan
  • Funnel
  • Measuring Spoon
  • Measuring Cup
  • Small, clean soft drink bottle
  • 4 tbsps Baking Soda
  • ¼ litre Vinegar
  • Squirt of Washing-Up Liquid (for bubbles)
  • Red or Yellow Food colouring (optional)

Make Your Own Volcano

Making your own volcano is really simple! Place the saucepan on an even surface – stacking onto a pile of newspapers is ideal. Then place the small soft drink bottle inside the saucepan, taking care to secure with a piece of play dough or sticky tape.

Place the funnel into the neck of the drinks bottle, and measure out the baking soda and deposit through the funnel. Take the funnel out (it needs to stay dry if you want to try the experiment again, so be prepared to do some washing up!) and then add a squirt of washing up liquid into the powder inside the bottle. The water and gas produced by the chemical interaction mixes with the washing-up liquid to create extra bubbles for the explosion.

Next, measure out the vinegar in the measuring cup or jug. Mix a few drops of red or yellow food colouring into the vinegar at this point if you want to add some vibrancy to the eruption. You could also add glitter at this point too.

You must be prepared to move quickly before you take the last step, as the chemical eruption will swiftly take place. Place the funnel back in the drinks bottle, and pour in the vinegar, before quickly removing the funnel and standing back. Within a few seconds, your ‘volcano’ should be erupting, thanks to the production of gas within the bottle. Voila!

Extras

An alternative and more crafty way of making your own volcano is to replace the saucepan with a shallow foil dish. Secure the drinks bottle to the tray, and using play dough, papier mache or modelling clay, build up the rocky sides of the volcano, making sure to keep the bottle opening clear.

If desired, you could paint the modelling clay, or add moss, twigs and small stones into the structure for a little more authenticity! You can then measure all the ingredients and follow the instructions as above to create your volcanic eruptions.

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