Volcano Eruption Experiments

Lava pouring from a volcano.
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Kids and adults alike hold a fascination for Volcanoes; indeed, they are the source of new land on Earth. They provide some brilliant light shows when erupting. Unfortunately not everyone can take a quick day trip to the nearby volcano to see how it works. There are a multitude of experiments using household items to explore the fascinating geological features of our planet.

Soda Bottle Volcano

Use a normal 20 ounce soda bottle to create this fun and easy volcano. Fill the bottle half full with plain white vinegar. Make a baking soda bomb by placing one tablespoon of baking soda into tissue paper and tying the top with string. Drop your bomb into the soda bottle and stand back a little. The baking soda, a base, reacts with the acid in the vinegar and causes a foaming reaction that quickly overflows the neck of the bottle. Try the experiment with different shaped bottles and different amounts of the ingredients to see different reactions.

Alka Seltzer Eruption

Many volcanoes erupt as a result of gasses building inside the volcano until the surface reaches a breaking point. A 35mm film canister, water, and an Alka Seltzer tablet can provide the same reaction in your backyard. Fill the canister half full with water. Divide the tablet into four sections. Drop one section of the tablet into the canister, quickly snap the lid in place, and step back. Within a few seconds you should have a fun reaction. The gas from the dissolving tablet builds against the lid of the canister until a critical point is reached and the lid can no longer hold on. When this point is reached the lid will fly into the air. Try the experiment numerous times by varying the amount of water in the canister.

Mentos Diet Coke Geyser

Geysers are often associated with volcanoes. The largest volcano in North America is famous for its geysers: Yellowstone National Park. The ingredients in mint Mentos and the compressed gasses in the soda bottle react to cause a geyser that shoots spectacularly into the air. You need a roll of mint Mentos candy, a two liter bottle of diet soda, and a piece of paper. The goal is to drop the entire roll of candy into the bottle at the same time. Open the soda and roll the paper so that it just fits into the neck of the bottle. Pinch the paper just above the neck of the bottle and put the entire roll of candy into the paper roll. Release the paper and allow the candy to drop into the soda and run. The resulting eruption will shoot high into the air. Diet soda is used because it does not contain sugar and will not become sticky, but please do this experiment outside.

Volcano Model

Make a volcano out of modeling clay or papier-mâché. No more than 12 inches around the base and 6 inches high is recommended. You can paint or decorate your volcano depending on what type of landscape you want to show. Insert a 35mm film canister without the lid into the volcano shaft. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda and a spoonful of dish soap to the canister. Add five drops each of yellow and red food coloring to the baking soda and dish soap. Pour about an ounce of vinegar into the shaft and watch your eruption. The acid in the vinegar reacts with the base in the baking soda and causes foam to flow from the top of the volcano. The dish soap adds more bubbles to the mix while the food coloring should present some interesting colors of lava.

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