Smoking Bubbles – Dry Ice Science

Bubbles, smoke, and fog all add-up to make a unique hands-on Halloween experience

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We know that dry ice is incredibly fun to use in experiments – it’s because of the awesome fog you get when you combine the ultra-cold ice with warm water! Now if you could only figure out a way to actually grab and hold that elusive smoke in your hands. With the Dry Ice Smoking Bubbles experiment, you can! By creating smoke-filled bubbles that you can hold in your hands, you make dry ice a fun experience that everyone can really grasp.

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Here's What You'll Need

  • Graduated cylinder (or similar container)
  • Warm water
  • Dry ice (Can be purchased at a local grocery store)
  • Dish soap
  • Heavy glove
  • Safety glasses
  • Food coloring or Fizzers (optional)
  • Adult Supervision

Let's Try It

  1. Fill your graduated cylinder half-full with warm water. If you don’t have a graduated cylinder laying around, you can use something similar, like a flower vase or another tall, narrow container.


  2. NOTE: Before handling any dry ice, put on a pair of heavy gloves. Dry ice is so cold (-110ºF/-78ºC) that it will burn your skin!

    Make sure that you have pieces of dry ice that are small enough to fit inside your graduated cylinder. If not, put on a pair of safety glasses and use a hammer to break the dry ice into smaller pieces.

  3. Once you’ve created the small pieces, drop a few into the graduated cylinder. Once in the water, the dry ice will begin to bubble and produce a smoke within the cylinder. Eventually the smoke flows right over the top.

  4. Put a squirt of dish soap into the cylinder and watch what happens! Before you know it, a column of bubbles begins to form at the mouth of your cylinder.

  5. Grab those bubbles and give them a squeeze! These bubbles burst with an amazing explosion of fog.

How Does It Work

When you add dry ice to warm water, you immediately see the dry ice begin to bubble and create fog within the container. This “smoking” effect is directly caused by the rapid warming of the dry ice. Dry ice is frozen, compressed carbon dioxide gas and when you add it to warm water, it combines with the water to create the fog (carbon dioxide and water vapor) that you see bubbling out of your cylinder.

Adding soap to burping, bubbling, smoking water creates a whole new effect. Instead of the dry ice just bubbling in the water to make a cloud, the soap in the water traps the carbon dioxide and water vapor in a soapy bubble. Bursting the bubbles in your hands (or as they flow out of the cylinder) releases the gases in a brilliant cascade of fog.

Take It Further

Try adding some fun effects or adjusting ingredients to your smoking bubbles…

  • Add a few drops of food coloring.
  • Use a glow stick to create an eerie brew

Science Fair Connection

Creating a smoking bubble is pretty cool, but it isn’t a science fair project. You can create a science fair project by identifying a variable, or something that changes, in this experiment. Let’s take a look at some of the vari- able options that might work:

  • Try using different brands of soap.  Which brands bubble the longest? Which brands create larger bubbles and trap the most fog?

That’s just one idea, but you aren’t limited to that! Try coming up with different ideas of variables and give them a try. Remember, you can only change one thing at a time.

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