Lava Lamps


The Lava Lamp was invented by Edward Craven Walker in Britain in 1963. He had the idea when he noticed a homemade egg timer filled with liquid that looked like an alien. It took him years to develop the formula; but ever since, the Lava Lamp became a British icon in the 1960s, and is still produced worldwide until now. Check this video to know more about the history of the Lava Lamp.

In fact, the complete list of ingredients of the Lava Lamp is a company secret; however, they are, fundamentally, colored wax in colored water. The Lamp works using a bulb at the base of the Lamp (underneath the bottle), which heats the contents until the wax melts. It then slowly rises to the top of the Lamp, where it cools slightly, and sinks back to the bottom. This process is repeated, creating the unique shapes in the water. Check this video to know how the lamps are made.


Make the Lava Lamp

Check this video if you want to make your own Lava Lamp at home.


What you need

  • A flask or a bottle
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Aspirin or salt.

What you do

  • Fill most of the flask with vegetable oil.
  • Fill the rest of the flask with water; the water will sink to the bottom under the oil.
  • Add a few drops of your choice of water-based food coloring; it will also sink and color the water that is at the bottom of the flask.
  • Break an aspirin tablet into few small pieces, and drop them in the flask one at a time.
  • Watch your Lava Lamp erupt into activity! As the reaction slows down, simply add more aspirin.

The Science behind the Lava Lamp

The Lava Lamp is based on different scientific principles: density polarity and solubility, where water is denser than the vegetable oil, and that is why the water settles beneath it. Then, the salt coats the oil, which weighs the oil down because the salt is denser than water and vegetable oil. For this reason, the added salt causes the vegetable oil to sink to the bottom of the graduated cylinder. The salt then begins to dissolve in the water, and separates from the vegetable oil. Without the salt attached to the vegetable oil, it is less dense than water and so floats back up on top of it.

The reason why the vegetable oil does not dissolve in the water is the difference in polarity. Water and salt are both polar, allowing the salt to dissolve in the water, whereas oil is non-polar and, hence, cannot be dissolved in salt or water.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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