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All the Things You Can Do with Dry Ice

October 23, 2018

Sometimes, I think to myself that I need to spend more time playing with dry ice. I imagine that this thought is not universally shared, but nonetheless, let’s talk about all the things we can do with dry ice.

 

First, a note of caution: Handling dry ice can be dangerous because it is very cold. Frostbite is a real possibility. Dry ice should be handled carefully, and preferably by a responsible (or semi-responsible) adult. Also keeping dry ice in an enclosed space without adequate ventilation can result in dangerous buildups of carbon dioxide gas. So use ventilation. More information about safe handling of dry ice can be found at this link: https://dryiceinfo.com/safe.htm.

 

A second note: Let’s say you want to get some dry ice to do all these things with. Where can you go? It turns out that many supply stores will deliver dry ice for you (www.acmedryice.com in the Boston area). Note that you often have to buy large quantities of the dry ice though, so you may be doing these activities with lots and lots of dry ice!

 

Option 1: Dry ice in a glove. This is fun for kids of all ages. Basically, the dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, and as it sublimes (turns into gas) it expands. This means that a small piece of dry ice that is placed inside a glove will, over time, cause the glove to expand significantly as the solid turns into gas. Color on the glove first, and create your own glove creatures! You can also do the same experiment with a balloon for even more fun! Check out this video for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z3XNrs1Hg4.

 

Option 2: Dry ice bubbles. Bubbles that are created from dry ice are denser than those that are created from regular air, because the carbon dioxide gas is heavier than the gas mixture that comprises standard air (mostly nitrogen, some oxygen, even less carbon dioxide). As a result, using dry ice (or carbon dioxide, really) to make bubbles results in bubbles that can bounce! Check out this link below for more information and for the option to buy a bouncing bubble kit: https://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/boo-bubbles-dry-ice-science/

 

Option 3: Whistling dry ice. You can make a screaming spoon by pressing the spoon against dry ice. See this video for how it might sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AaiXFduZaw. Also, you can use a coin or any other metal to get the same effect. How does this work? When you press a relatively warm metal against the ice, it causes the ice to sublime rapidly and release carbon dioxide gas. Most of the gas is trapped by the pressure, but as it escapes through narrow holes, it causes a whistling, or even a screaming, sound.

 

Option 4: Lots and lots of dry ice smoke. Dry ice fog is amazing. Simply by taking dry ice and putting it into warm water, you will cause lots of sublimation to occur at once, and lots of gas/fog/smoke to appear at once. How cool can this be? Well America’s Got Talent in 2017 featured a chemist named Nick, who combined warm water with a bucket of dry ice to cause an enormous smoke cloud that wowed the judges and the entire audience. Check out this YouTube video in case you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCKwVleVzGg.

 

Happy dry ice time, scientists! Be careful and have fun!

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