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Dry Ice Experiments You Can Try at Home

People are mesmerized by dry ice. It is freezing cold, it gives off a chilling smoke that sinks to the ground and when you drop it in water, bubbles and smoke start pouring out of the liquid! This is probably why dry ice is so popular at Halloween time - it is mysterious, ghoulish, and intriguing.

Everyone should have the chance to 'play' with dry ice at some point in their life! But, if you haven't had the chance to experience if for yourself, you can always watch the video above and see how excited Craig Beals gets when dry ice is around!

5 Dry Ice Experiments

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Screaming Dry Ice


The Experiment:

Warm the kitchen tongs gently with your hands or by gently breathing on them. Use the tongs to grab a piece of dry ice and hold firmly. Loosen and tighten the grip on the dry ice to see how it changes the pitch of the "Screaming Dry Ice"

How does it work?

Dry ice sublimates rapidly. This means it turns from a solid directly to a gas without first becoming a liquid. The main reason for this is that dry ice is -110 degrees F (-79 degrees C) and room temperature is about 70 deg F (21 deg C). Because of this the dry ice skips the liquid phase and goes directly from a solid to a gas (liquid CO2 cannot exist at 'normal atmospheric pressure' [14.7 psi], the pressure must be greater than 60.4 psi to turn it to a liquid).

The heated tongs start to vibrate as the solid rapidly as the dry ice block turns to a gas and causes a vapor barrier between the tongs and the dry ice. This rapid vibration in the metal gives off a loud shrill sound that we can hear!

​Dry Ice in Water


Dry Ice, Water, Gloves

The Experiment:

Break up dry ice into small pieces. Fill a container with water (warm water is preferred). Drop the dry ice into the water. Sit back and enjoy!

How does it work?

Dry ice quickly turns from a solid to a gas in water, even more so than in air. This is because the dry ice will pull more energy more quickly from the water than it will from the air partly because of the surface area of water / dry ice contact but also because of the temperature difference. The dry ice gas occupies more space than the water so it creates a 'bubble' that pushes up out of the water.

Dry Ice CO2 Bubbles


The Experiment:

Break up dry ice into small pieces. Fill a container with water (warm water is preferred). Drizzle some of the soap into the water. Drop the dry ice into the water. Sit back and enjoy the cloudy bubbles as they flow from your cauldron!

How does it work?

This same process happen here as outlined above in "Dry Ice in Water" but as the bubbles form and agitate the soapy water, the soap encapsulates the CO2 gas and creates a cloudy bubble. The bubbles continue to form and the 'foam' flows from the cup or beaker until the dry ice is gone!

Glowing CO2


The Experiment:

Turn on your black light. Pour water into a container, the taller the better (I use a large graduated cylinder). Using the scissors, score the highlighter so you can break it in half. To score it, act as though you are going to cut it in half but give steady pressure with the scissors and spin the highlighter so that a cut line is made on the marker. Next, break the highlighter in half. Pull the ink barrel out and drip the highlighter ink into the water.

Break up dry ice into small pieces and drop inside. The water will have an eerie glow as CO2 bubbles and 'smoke' pour from the container.

How does it work?

The ink in highlighters have pyranine and/or fluorescein dyes inside which is what gives them their characteristic 'glow' when used on white paper. This dye reflects near UV wavelengths back at the viewer making them seem brighter than their surroundings. When dripped in water with a black light nearby, the near UV of the black light will light up the pigments from the highlighter.

Dry Ice Crystal Ball


Water, Dish Soap, Distilled Water (optional) Cotton Fabric (old t-shirt), Large Bowl, Dry Ice, Gloves

The Experiment:

In a small container, mix 1/2 dish soap with 1/2 distilled water (soap alone works OK but not as well). Cut a strip of cotton about 2 inches wide and long enough to fit over your large bowl. Soak the fabric in the soap/water mixture.

Fill the large bowls with warm water and dry ice (I prefer to use the dyed liquid from the "Glowing CO2" experiment but it is not necessary). Remove the cotton from the soap and pull it straight, removing excess soap. Set the fabric on the rim of the bowl furthest from you and gently glide the fabric toward yourself, being careful to keep the fabric touching the rim of the bowl the entire time. A layer of soap should be left behind and should slowly grow into a 'Crystal Ball' as the CO2 turns to gas below it. This may take several tries! Be patient and keep trying!

How does it work?

This is just like blowing a bubble. The layer of soap holds together and expands to make a large bubble above the bowl and just like that - you can see the future inside your magic crystal ball!

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is the solid form of Carbon Dioxide. It is -110 deg F (-79 deg C). The vapor that comes off is gaseous CO2.

Where do you get dry ice?

Most major grocery stores carry dry ice. Call ahead or as the clerk if they have dry ice. You must be over 18 years of age in most places in the US to buy dry ice because of potential injuries from the intense cold temperature and because dry ice can be used to make a pressure bomb.

How much is dry ice?

The price of dry ice varies by time of year and by location. I can usually find it for less than $2.00 per pound.

Is dry ice dangerous?

Yes. If you are not careful.

~Frost bite: Dry ice is very cold and can cause frostbite, which is the freezing of skin tissue. Always use insulated gloves to handle the solid dry ice.

~CO2 Inhalation: When used under normal conditions, the amount of CO2 coming from dry ice will do absolutely no harm. However, if you were to let the ice sublimate in a very small area, the levels of carbon dioxide would increase over time and, as we know, humans need oxygen to breathe, not CO2.

~Dry Ice Bomb: Dry ice is not explosive, reactive, or flammable! However, because dry ice turns to a gas very quickly, and because a gas takes up far more space than a solid, if you store the dry ice in a sealed container it could eventually build up pressure and the container could fail and blow up. Do not store dry ice in a sealed container - a cooler with a loose lid works best.


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