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These colorful lava lamps are not just fun to look at, but they are also bursting with a chemical reaction that makes it all possible.



  • Clean glass jars or plastic soda bottles
  • Vegetable oil 
  • Food coloring
  • Alka Seltzer tablets
  • Water
  • Flashlight (optional)


  1. Fill the bottle 3/4 way with vegetable oil.
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with water (do not overflow).
  3. Add about 10 drops of food coloring. You want the water to be fairly dark in color. 
  4. Divide one Alka Seltzer tablet into 8 pieces. Drop the pieces one by one into the oil and water mixture. Watch what happens!
  5. Optional: Place your lava lamp on top of a large flashlight and turn off all other lights for an extra cool effect!
  6. Repeat these steps to make as many lava lamps as you would like!

So, how does it work?

Well we know one thing, oil and water do not mix. You will even notice that the food coloring only mixes with the water, not the oil. Since water is heavier, all of it sinks to the bottom while the oil floats to the surface. The Alka Seltzer tablet reacts with the water to create tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and cause them to float to the surface. When the bubbles pop, the blobs of colored water sink back down, bursting with color. 

Source: Steve Spangler Science

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