Cool Chemistry: 10 Unique Experiments Using Dry Ice

Cool Chemistry: 10 Unique Experiments Using Dry Ice

Emily Newton 13/03/2024
Cool Chemistry: 9 Unique Experiments Using Dry Ice

Everyone remembers cartoon villains fooling main characters by using dry ice as spooky smoke.

The best part of these nostalgic memories is that they can become a reality and deliver engaging, safe chemistry education for children. Here are some of the most thrilling yet accessible science experiments for any educational environment.

Practise Safety

Nothing is more important than safety in any experiment, but mainly because dry ice requires you to take some precautions. You must handle dry ice carefully, because it can cause frostbite with direct contact with the skin. Avoid this by wearing long sleeves, gloves and eyewear to feel even more secure.

Protecting yourself is the first step in setting up dry ice experiments for kids. The next step is to do the experiments in the right environment. Dry ice releases a ton of carbon dioxide, so do everything in an ample, open space with lots of airflow — ventilation is key. Too much carbon dioxide in an enclosed space could cause dizziness and more severe side effects.

Needless to say, always provide adult supervision, even though these experiments are child-friendly. Temperatures reach minus 109 degrees Fahrenheit, so this is no time to mess around. If you or the kids touch, swallow or get dry ice in your eyes, don’t delay — seek medical attention immediately.

Let’s get into these spellbinding dry ice experiments for kids without further ado.

1. Volcano and Smoke Bubbles

Create an eruption of vigorous bubbles with this simple mixture. If you put this in a volcano-shaped beaker, the experiment suddenly becomes an epic natural event. All you have to do is put dry ice in any container with dish soap and water. 

In a process called sublimation, the dry ice transforms from a solid, frozen state into a gas. It gets trapped inside the soap bubbles, so when you pop them, a mystical fog releases. 

2. Crystal Ball

An even more straightforward dry ice experiment for kids is placing a sphere of it in water to create a misty shape that looks like a crystal ball. Feel free to let the kids shake the bowl and swat the fog, allowing them to play and test how movement impacts the ferocity and spread of the visuals. It makes the experience more interactive.

3. Inflate a Balloon

As you learnt during your safety tutorial, warming dry ice emits carbon dioxide. This is the perfect byproduct to inflate a balloon without any effort. Once you put the pebbles of dry ice in, the gas expands. So, stand a safe distance away, especially if there are children around who don’t like the sound of popping balloons.

4. Bubble Painting

You’re going to create bubbles differently this time. Grab a bowl and fill it with warm water and soap. Drop in the dry ice and it will start to bubble. Then, take food colouring or liquid watercolour paints and start splattering them all over the foam. Add as many colours as you want. It’s important to know it’s completely safe to touch dry ice bubbles — just not the ice block itself. 

Take a paper or canvas board and lay it face down on your colourful bubble bath. They will craft lovely, textured bubble art as they contact the surface and pop. This is great for kids because it shows another application of unique substances attaching to different states of matter. Plus, it can be as challenging as it is fun to create something truly extraordinary.

If you’re feeling festive and educational around spooky season, you can also use this setup during Halloween to make a witch-style brew. 

5. Tornado

Grab a tall, cylindrical beaker or vase and spin warm water around it as fast as you can without spilling. When you drop the dry ice inside it will rise in a swirling motion. 

Creative setups of this experiment can involve an entire room. The larger the dish, the bigger the tornado. Surround the scene with fans, ensuring one is mounted above the container, to see what configurations construct the most furious funnel. It is a fascinating way to demonstrate cause and effect while witnessing the delicacy of vapours.

6. Smoke Ring Cannon

Let’s see how well you can manipulate dry ice fog. Try this with any vessel of any size, but try starting with a plastic cup. Cut a small hole out of the bottom and secure the top with plastic wrap and seal the edges. 

Dropping dry ice pellets into the open hole will make the gas try to escape from the only opening. Gently patting the plastic wrap can force it to come out as fun rings. If you get yourself a larger container, enough force comes out of the hole to knock over lightweight objects.

7. Screaming Spoons

Dry ice and metals don’t get along, much like they don’t with bare skin. Taking a room temperature or warm spoon and placing it on the bare, dry ice will cause a shrieking, vibrating sound from the utensil. Changing pressure will make different sounds. Despite the potentially jarring noise, it’s a good time to introduce the concept of thermal conductivity.

8. Frozen Flowers

Mixing dry ice with ethanol produces a stranger result than a few bubbles and smoke effects. The ethanol stays liquid because of its vastly different freezing point compared to dry ice. It’s the perfect time to teach this concept to young learners. But what happens if you put something in the mixture?

Grab something delicate like a flower and dip the bulb into the liquid. What was once silky to the touch is as hard as a rock now, but don’t be fooled — it’s pretty brittle. Students might have more fun destroying their creations than making them.

9. Snuff Out a Match

Fire needs oxygen to keep going, and putting dry ice in a small enough container means there won’t be any room for oxygen in the same area. Anyone attempting to put a lit match in the glass will notice it immediately burns out. You may not want to engage in fire-related experiments depending on the age of the students, but it’s a fascinating time to discuss elemental reactivity.

10. Sweet Treats

Fewer science experiments will appeal to kids more than something that yields a tasty reward at the end of the lesson. Let’s create ice cream. First, the adult will want to blend the dry ice until it is powdery. 

Students may measure milk, cream, sugar and flavour put it into a vessel. After adding the dry ice, blend it even more. Despite the other ingredients, this is still too cold to consume immediately. Ironically, putting it in the freezer helps it cool down to an edible temperature.

Dry Ice Experiments for Kids

Hundreds of dry ice experiments are out there to teach eager students about chemical reactivity, states of matter, freezing points and more. The topics are vast, and the captivating effects will keep learners’ interests piqued, even if they aren’t fans of chemistry.

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Emily Newton

Science & Tech Expert

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She is a science and technology journalist with over three years covering industry trends and research. 

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