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Have you ever seen a volcano for real? It is huge. Just imagine that the Big Island of Hawaii is a massive volcano. Another great example – Fuji Mountain in Japan. Now, having us, you do not have to go to the Pacific Ring of Fire to see a volcano. You can make volcano at home! You need only a few minutes to prepare all the ingredients which are required for the eruption. It is one of the best experiment for kids. Homemade volcano? No problem 🙂
In our experiment we used:
- Powdered sugar (4 table spoons)
- Baking soda (1 table spoon)
Due to the fact of playing with open fire, please keep extraordinary precautions when making volcano at home. You might hardly see the burning alcohol flames while executing this experiment during the bright daylight. Thus, hold your hair tied and clothes tight.
Step 1 – Prepare the volcano cone
Take a bucket of sand and form the volcano-shaped structure. Build it on the non-inflammable surface. We used a ceramic plate. In this case, it’s fair enough. Nevertheless, please make sure that your surface is safe to use. If possible, do this experiment outdoor – it can be your garden, balcony, or a backyard.
Step 2 – Pour the alcohol
In step 2, we take alcohol (we used the 98%) and pour it into the hole in the middle of the volcano cone. Do not hesitate to use more of it as part of it will be soaked by the sand. Remember also, that despite the fact it is absorbed, the transparent fumes are in the air.
Step 3 – Mix sugar with baking soda
Mix separately in the glass a sugar and baking soda. Mix it in the proportion 1:4 (for example: 1 table spoon of baking soda and 4 table spoons of powdered sugar). Once mixed, spread it around the hole, then a little bit inside the hole and cover the slope. We are doing so to get the “black snakes” down the hill. Why is that happen? Check our further section (Explanation for pros), where we explain it. The more mixture you use, the more spectacular results you get, but you also need to use more fuel (alcohol) what can cause more fire, so keep it rational.
Step 4 – Put a fire
Use a lighter to start our chain reaction – the longer the nozzle is, the better. Avoid regular cigarette lighter to avoid burning your skin – the fumes are very flammable, so does the alcohol. The fumes get in a fire, then the ethanol starts burning, and after a few moments, the sugar and baking soda mixture starts getting black. Volcano at home – checked!
Explanation for pros
Three chemical reactions are causing the black snake. The first of these reactions occurs when sugar combusts (burns) in the presence of oxygen. This reaction produces carbon dioxide gas and water vapor (also a gas), which pushes more of the sugar/baking soda mixture upwards. Part of the additional sugar heats up without having access to any oxygen. Instead of burning, it undergoes thermal decomposition, producing stable carbon and more water vapor. This solid carbon now gives the snake shape, and also provides the snake with its black color. Lastly, the baking soda also decomposes in the heat, producing solid sodium carbonate, and carbon dioxide gas and water vapor. Altogether, these three reactions produce both the solid components of the snake (carbon and sodium carbonate) and hot gases (CO2 and water vapor) that expand and inflate the snake up and out of the sand bowl.
Probably yes, but you need to remember that we use sand due to its’ advantages. Firstly, you can easily form the volcano. Secondly, the sand in this experiment doesn’t chemically react with anything in the growing snake. Instead, it evenly distributes the heat from the burning lighter fluid to the sugar and the baking soda, ensuring a slow, steady burn and the growth of a long carbon sugar snake. The other material that comes to our mind can be a clay. We think that it should work as well.
- The word volcano originally comes from the name of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan.
- Hot liquid rock under the Earth’s surface is known as magma, it is called lava after it comes out of a volcano.
- Volcanoes are openings in the Earth’s surface. When they are active they can let ash, gas and hot magma escape in sometimes violent and spectacular eruptions.
- Volcanoes are usually located where tectonic plates meet. This is especially true for the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area around the Pacific Ocean where over 75% of the volcanoes on Earth are found.
- While most volcanoes form near tectonic boundaries, they can also form in areas that contain abnormally hot rock inside the Earth. Known as mantle plumes, these hotspots are found at a number of locations around the globe with the most notable being in Hawaii.
- The biggest known volcano in our solar system is actually on Mars. Its name is Olympus Mons and it measures a 600 km wide and 21 km high.
- Pumice is a unique volcanic rock, that can float in water. It can also be used as an abrasive and is sometimes used in beauty salons for removing dry skin.
- The object with the most volcanic activity in our solar system is Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. Covered in volcanoes, its surface is constantly changing to the large amount of volcanic activity.
- There are also volcanoes found on the ocean floor and even under icecaps, such as those found in Iceland.
- Common volcanic gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen sulfide.
- Volcanic eruptions can send ash high into the air, over 30km above the Earth’s surface.
- Volcanoes can be active (regular activity), dormant (recent historical activity but now quiet) or extinct (no activity in historical times and unlikely to erupt again).
- Large volcanic eruptions can reflect radiation from the Sun and drop average temperatures on Earth by around half a degree. There have been several examples of this over the last century
Experimenting with volcano at home can bring a lot of fun to our kids. With this simple activity, you can gain a great knowledge of 3 chemical reactions, warm yourself and get some facts about mythology. This is unbelievable way of starting science classes for younger children.
If you liked this article, you might be interested also in our other post where we make a “cold” snake known as elephant toothpaste – Please check my post Elephant Toothpaste Explained
Please leave the comment below. We are curious what are your suggestions and results.