Extreme Science: Penny Shine

What you will need:

  • Stove or hot plate – Use extreme caution and with adult supervision ONLY.
  • Empty aluminum cans
  • Tablespoon
  • Water
  • Tongs
  • Bowl
  • Ice
  • Adult supervision


  1. Fill a small bowl with water and add ice.
  2. Rinse out pop cans and add one tablespoon of water.
  3. Place pop can on stove burner.
  4. After water inside of can begins to boil (approximately 5 minutes) wait one more minute to allow all of the air to be pushed out of the can as it fills up with water vapor.  You should see a steady stream of steam coming out of the top of the can.
  5. Using your tongs, carefully pick up the pop can (with your palm facing upward), move it over the bowl of ice water and quickly, in one swift move, turn it upside down and immerse the top of the can in the ice water. 
    Be careful not to splash any of the hot water out of the can when performing this step
    as this water is boiling hot and will cause injury.

What is going on?

As the water in the bottom of the can is heated up, it changes from a liquid to a vapor.  In doing so, the molecules move 1,700 times farther apart than they were in liquid form.  As the can is filled with the hot water vapor, the air in the can is pushed out.  Now, when turn the can upside down and immerse it in the cold water, the hot water vapor is rapidly cooled off.  As this happens, the water vapor is now changed back into a liquid, which takes up a lot less space.  Since there is 14.7 pounds of air pressure on the outside of the can pressing in, the can is crushed instantly.

Try this:

Try doing this with warm water in the bowl instead of ice cold water.  Do you get the same results?

Radical Rick

Extreme Science



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