What is in Lava Lamps?

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    Construction

    • The lamp base itself is of basic construction; it houses the light, and provides stability to entire lamp. Very little light is emitted from the lamp, as the light bulb is used as a heat source. The glass cylinder houses the liquids, and is securely sealed once in place.

    How It Works

    • The liquid in the cylinder is made up of two primary ingredients, which have properties that will not allow them to mix together. The first ingredient is made mostly with water, generally with some added isopropyl alcohol. The secondary liquid is a waxy mineral oil compound. When the waxy goo is heated it changes from a solid form to a liquid form and rises in the water. Since the wax can not blend with the water, it adheres to itself in large globs. As it cools it becomes less dense and drops to the bottom of the cylinder, where the process of floating repeats. There is no mechanism that churns the water, the floating and mixing of the waxy compound is simple gravity.

    Scientific Explanation

    • Oil and water can not mix with each other because of the set-up of their molecules. The hydrogen molecules in water bond tightly with each other and react well with positively charged molecules. Oil molecules are non-polar and like to stick to other oil molecules, which results in the water and oil not being able to bond.

    Make Your Own

    • Those who are interested in making their own lava lamp should visit www.OozingGoo.com; there you can learn how to create your own lava lamp "goo" and even learn how to update your existing lava lamp by changing the color. The website even has a child-appropriate experiment teaching the science behind lava lamps.

    Considerations

    • While making your own lava lamp might sound like an interesting endeavor, be sure to take proper precautions. Follow instructions exactly as given, and never attempt to heat a lava lamp on an alternate heat source. Failure to follow safety precautions could result in severe injury or death.

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