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Making layered liquids

You will need

 
  • 50 mL Vegetable Oil
  • 50 mL Glycerol or glucose syrup
  • 50 mL Water, coloured with food colouring
  • Shaving cream
  • Clear plastic container
  • Beads, marbles and foam

    Layered liquids density experiment materials

    Copyright


Density column
Density column with glycerin, water, oil & shaving cream

Instructions
 

  1. Pour the glycerol (or corn syrup) into the bottom of the plastic container. Try not to touch the sides.
     
  2. Carefully pour the oil down the side of the container. There should be two distinct layers.

    Oil floating on corn syrup
    Oil floating on corn syrup
     
  3. Now carefully pour the water down the side of the container. Where did this layer end up floating?

    Floating water above corn syrup but below oil
    Floating water above corn syrup but below oil
     
  4. Carefully place the beads (etc) onto the surface of your layered liquid. Where do they float? Why?
     
  5. Add some shaving cream on the top!

    Shaving on top of a density experiment
    Shaving on top of a density experiment

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Why Does This Happen?

Each liquid has a different density, meaning that although the volume is the same, the mass of each liquid is different. Density = Mass / Volume. The higher the density, the more compact the substance is, e.g. Iron is more dense than water.
 
  • The corn syrup is much denser than water, so the water floats above it.
  • The water is more than the oil but less dense than the corn syrup, so it floats in between the oil and corn syrup.
  • Finally, the shaving is the least dense of all the materials... so it sits above the three liquids.
Actual densities

Corn Syrup = 1.37g/ml
Water = 1.00g/ml
Oil = 0.91g/ml
Shaving cream = approximately 0.80g/ml
 
Questions to ask students:
  • Is the vegetable oil more or less dense than the water?
  • Why do some objects sink and others float?

Weird Fact: The planet Saturn is less dense than water. A big enough ocean could make it float!
Solid water (ice) floats because it is less dense than water as a liquid. Very unusual for a chemical.

Check out the different types of icebergs found in the world:
Canadian Geographic Magazine
 
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