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Dry Ice Fun

DO NOT leave Dry Ice unattended around children.



Dry Ice can add the right touch to the typical school volcano. The “smoke” will come out the top and flow down the sides for several minutes. Inside the volcano must be a container to hold hot water. If hot water is not immediately available use a thermos to store it. The hotter the water is (nearly boiling if under adult supervision) the better. The bottom must be sealed tightly. Otherwise Dry Ice fog will leak out the bottom. Use putty or some other sealant. At the time of eruption, use gloves and put small pieces of Dry Ice into the hot water. The volcano will bubble and “smoke” for several minutes.


An easy to make cloud chamber can be used to observe Alpha or Beta particles. Use a clear Pyrex or Corning shallow glass container that will not break in a freezer. Cover the bottom inside of the dish with black felt or black paper. Cut a piece of cardboard larger than the top of the dish. Pour alcohol on one side of the cardboard. Place the cardboard on the dish with the wet side down. Heat the top cardboard with your hand or something else warm such as an iron. Place the dish on a slab of Dry Ice. The alcohol will form a cloud. Shine a light through the side of the dish to observe vapor trails. Some natural vapor trails can be seen in time although you may have to put alcohol on the cardboard several times. Place an alpha ray source such as an old fashion illuminated watch dial or a Coleman lantern mantel inside to see more ion trails in the cloud chamber. Use a light source such as a bright flashlight to see the cloud tracks better.


Sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3), also called Sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate of soda, and baking soda, is an important chemical. Hundred of thousands of tons are produced each year for use in baking and in producing other chemicals. One way to make this compound at home or in the school chemistry laboratory is to use Dry Ice, salt, ammonium carbonate, and vinegar.


You can make a miniature comet and watch as it sublimates–just like a real comet being heated by the Sun! Make sure you have adult supervision. The materials you will need are Dry Ice (solid carbon dioxide), a large bowl, a garbage bag, several smaller plastic bags, gloves, a hammer, water, sand, and a few drops of ammonia. Buy about 3 pounds of Dry Ice. Be very careful in handling Dry Ice, and always wear gloves. Solid carbon dioxide is much colder than ice, and if it touches your skin it will hurt as if you had been burned by fire. Use a plastic garbage bag to line a bowl big enough to hold a quart of water. Put two cups of water into the lined bowl. Add a couple spoonfuls of sand. Sprinkle in a few drops of ammonia and stir the mixture well. Wearing gloves, wrap the dry ice in several plastic bags. Use a hammer to pound the dry ice into small pieces. When the dry ice is crushed add about two cups of it while stirring your comet “soup”. Keep stirring while the dry ice freezes the water. When the mixture is almost completely frozen, lift it up using the plastic liner of your bowl and shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. When the “comet” is frozen and can hold its shape on its own, unwrap it and set it somewhere you can watch it. The dry ice will sublimate into a gas. You may see jets of carbon dioxide shoot from your comet. After a while, your comet will shrink and become pitted, like a comet that has been eroded by the Sun. (Based on a Recipe by Dennis Schatz, Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA.)Another COMET project developed by UC Berkeley is called “Make a Comet in the Classroom””DRY ICE INVESTIGATIONS” ** A Teachers Guide

“This unit revolves around the intriguing nature of dry ice and the incessant curiosity it provokes in all those who have the opportunity to interact with it. Whenever science (especially chemistry) is depicted on film or television, you can almost guarantee that you’ll see dry ice bubbling away in a colorful liquid. Music videos, scary movies, theatrical plays, and Halloween frequently feature its eerie heavy fog slowly and silently creeping across a surface. Although it is perhaps the ultimate symbol of “fun science,” students rarely have the opportunity to explore it themselves in science class, most likely because many teachers often don’t know where to get it, don’t know what to do with it, and are intimidated by safety issues. This guide hopes to deal thoroughly with all these issues, and to build on the wondrous appeal of dry ice to provide a highly memorable and powerful science learning experience.”

**One of the best science books for grades 6-8 is called “Dry Ice Investigations” from LHS Gems, UC Berkeley, (ISBN: 0-924886-15-3) available through and other suppliers.


Anthony Cody has developed “Cody’s Science Education Zone” featuring “Dry Ice: Simply Sublime”. This includes teacher lesson plans and projects for Grades 4-10.
Brian Rich’s “The Saturday Scientist” has lots of fun projects including a singing spoon and popping film cans.
“Rock-It Science” is a resident Agency at NASA Ames Research Center and presents “Dry Ice Experiments”. Investigations include Dry Ice Hockey, Fire Extinguisher, and Soapy Ooze.
The San Francisco Exploratorium has a on line list of over 100 science experiments. One of them: “Bubble Suspension” uses dry ice to form a cold thick atmosphere of CO2 for soap bubbles to float on. Eventually the CO2 will diffuse into the soap bubble by osmosis and the bubble will land on the dry ice. Some bubbles actually freeze and turn opaque.
Exploratorium: Science Snacks
Jane Hoffman’s Backyard Scientist series is recognized by the National Science Foundation as a unique teaching resource. Her books and kits include dry ice and are used by home, private and public schools as a curriculum resource. All The Backyard Scientist books have received the Award of Merit from “Curriculum Product News” magazine (now Curriculum Administrator).
The Backyard Scientist: Science for Kids



Dry Ice when combined with hot tap water can produce vigorous bubbling water and voluminous flowing fog. For example, with 5 pounds of Dry Ice in 4 to 5 gallons of hot water, the greatest amount of fog will be produced the first 5 to 10 minutes. There will be far less fog for the next 5 to 10 minutes as the water cools down and the volume of Dry Ice diminishes. As the water cools, the fog becomes wispier. Dry Ice makes fog because of its cold temperature, -109.3°F or -78.5°C, immersed in hot water, creates a cloud of true water vapor fog. When the water gets colder than 50°F, the Dry Ice stops making fog, but continues to sublimate and bubble. The fog will last longer on a damp day than on a dry day.
For each 15-minute period put 5 to 10 pounds of Dry Ice into 4 to 8 gallons of hot water. This will make lots of fog depending upon the temperature of the water and the size of the pieces of Dry Ice. Hotter water will make more fog. Very hot water will add its own rising steam to the vapor cloud. If there is no steam the fog will flow down hill and in the direction of any air movement. A small fan can help control the direction. Smaller pieces of Dry Ice with more surface area produce a greater volume of fog and cool the water down much faster. In both cases the result is more fog for a shorter amount of time. Keep the water hot with a hot plate, electric skillet, or some other heat source to produce fog for a longer time. Otherwise when the water gets too cold it must be replaced to continue the fog effects. If the container is completely filled with water the fog will flow over the sides the best. But the Dry Ice sublimation will vigorously bubble the water and splash it out. Even a ¾ filled container will splash some so place the container where spilled water will not ruin anything. The water vapor fog will also dampen the area it flows across. Be careful because after some time floors do get slippery.