Extreme Science: Density Column - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Extreme Science: Density Column

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What you will need:
  • Tall clear glass or bottle
  • Approximately ¼ cup of each of the following liquids:
    • Honey
    • Light Karo Syrup
    • 100% Maple syrup
    • Milk
    • Dawn dish soap
    • Water
    • Vegetable oil
    • Isopropyl alcohol
    • Lamp oil
  • Food coloring
  • Turkey baster
  • Various items such as:
    • a plastic bead
    • cherry tomato
    • popcorn kernel
    • various nuts such as peanuts, cashews, etc
    • any other small items that you find around the house.
  • Adult supervision

Procedure:

The first thing you will need to do is to determine the volume of your container. Since we have nine liquids listed above, you would need to determine how much of each liquid you can use to fill the container. For example, if you use ¼ cup of each liquid, you will need a container, or glass, that will hold at least 2 ¼ cups of liquid.

Starting with the densest liquid (honey), begin pouring the measured amount of each liquid into your glass, being careful that it does not run down the side of your container. Some liquids will be easier to pour in by using the turkey baster while others may be easier to just slowly pour, or “squirt” from their container. The list above is arranged by density so you will want to add each liquid in order as listed above.

As you add each new liquid, you will notice that the liquid will “float” on top of the previous liquid. If any mixing occurs as you add each liquid, let your density column stand undisturbed once you have added all of your liquids and you will notice that they will eventually separate based on their individual density.

After all of the liquids have been added, try dropping in each of your solid items such as the popcorn kernel, cherry tomato, nuts etc. Notice where each item stops in your column. Which items fall all the way to the bottom? Which ones tend to float on top of the water, yet below the dawn dish soap?

What is going on?

The density of any given material is defined as its mass per unit volume. Basically, it is a measurement of how tightly matter is crammed together. Relative density is the ratio of a materials density to the density of water. An item with a relative density (or specific gravity) that is greater than 1 means it will sink in water since it is heavier than water. An item with a relative density less than 1 will then float on top of water since it is lighter, or less dense, than water. Below is a list of your liquids and their density which is measured in grams per milliliter.

Lamp oil .80

Isopropyl alcohol .87

Vegetable oil .91

Water 1.0

Dish soap 1.03

Milk 1.04

100% maple syrup 1.32

Light Karo syrup 1.33

Honey 1.36

Try this:

What do you think would happen if you shook your density column up and mixed the liquids together? Do you think that they would eventually separate? Do you think that some would separate while other would remain mixed together? Try it and see. If they do separate, how long does it take? Do some separate faster than others?

Also, can you find enough solid objects with varying densities to get one to float between each of your liquids?

Radical Rick
Extreme Science
www.ExtremeScienceFun.com
509-892-7621

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