Do It Yourself: Lava Lamps

Posted on March 9, 2017 by


In the late 1960s, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things counterculture and psychedelic. The lamp was invented by Edward Craven Walker, a British accountant, who died at age 82.

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lava lamp. If you don’t know how the lamps work, here is a quick scientific explanation.

The exact recipe is a proprietary secret, but a key ingredient is the solvent carbon tetrachloride, which adds weight to the otherwise buoyant wax. The heat source at the bottom of the lamp (light bulb) liquefies the waxy blob. As it expands, its density decreases, and it rises to the top, where it cools, congeals, and begins to sink back down.

Making your own lamp isn’t as complicated as the one first invented. Here’s why. In this craft, it isn’t an actual lava lamp, but it is one that works just as well as the first, with no light or heat source needed. It won’t last as long, but you can always reuse or remake it. In this activity, you will only need five key ingredients. They will be listed below as well as the instructions. Many parents have rated this craft 4.5/5 stars due to the easy clean-up process and the time it takes to make the craft. This quick and easy experiment can be done with at-home products, which makes it all the better.

The supplies you will need are as listed:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Food Coloring
  • A water bottle
  • Alka-Seltzer Tablets

Fill the bottle about half way or a little more with oil and the rest of the way with water, leaving about an inch free at the top. Add several drops of food coloring, then break an Alka-Seltzer tablet into three or four pieces. Drop a piece of your choice into the bottle. As soon as the tablet hits the layer of water, it will start to fizz, and the colored water will erupt! Note that the bubbles will stop as soon as the tablet disintegrates, but they will start up again as soon as you add another tablet. If the oil becomes cloudy with tiny bubbles, just let it settle until they go away.

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