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Oil and Water

It is very difficult to make oil and water mix together. We say that oil is hydrophobic, which is a fancy way of saying it does not like water! Here is a fun experiment!

What you'll need -

  • A jar or bottle that has a lid that closes tightly
  • About 2 ounces (or more) of vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Food coloring

Fun part #1 - Pour the oil into that container. Very carefully pour about 2 ounces of water into the oil. If you'd like, you can add as much water as comfortably fits into the container. You can add food coloring to the water if you'd like). If you are careful, the water will pour right through the oil straight to the bottom of the container. Since the oil is lighter, it will float on top of the water!

Fun part #2 - Tightly close the lid to the container, and shake it as much as you'd like. The water and oil will seem to mix together. Let it set for a few minutes. In time, the oil and water will again separate!

Extra things you can do - What happens if you add some liquid dish soap to the mixture? Try it and find out! It will allow the oil and water to emulsify. This means that they will sort of mix together. Research dish detergent emulsions and to find out more.

How might this be useful? One of the things you do as an inventor is to look for things that naturally happen, then try to find ways to make that useful. For example, the fact that oil and water doe not mix together is used in the printing business. Printer's ink is grease based, and grease is hydophobic just like oil. Printing presses use this to separate the ink-printed parts of a paper from the areas that should have no ink.

If you can find a way to use the concept of hydrophibcs, you might be able to invent something brand new!

How can you make this into an experiment? Remember the scientific method. Will water and oil always separate? Why or why not (think of when you added the dish soap.) Think of different variables you can use to test how oil reacts with water. Here are some examples:

  • Control the amount of oil and water used. Does this change the way they separate?
  • Try it at different temperatures
  • WIll anything other than soap create an emulsion?
  • What else can you change and make comparisons?


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