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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
  • Clear plastic container
  • Beads, marbles and foam


1. Pour the glycerol into the bottom of the plastic container. Try not to touch the sides!

2. Carefully pour the water down the side of the container. There should be two distinct layers

3. Now carefully pour the vegetable oil down the side of the container

4. Carefully place the beads (etc) onto the surface of your layered liquid. Where do they float? Why?
Density layers

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 glycerol is much denser than water, so the water floats above it.
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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