In this science experiment we will mix molecules to make a glitter globe (i.e. a “snow globe”). We will combine rubbing alcohol, vegetable oil, and a few other tiny, shiny things to make a cool science toy.
How to make a glitter globe (snow globe)
- Fill a clear plastic or glass bottle 1/4 full of rubbing alcohol.
- Add one drop of food coloring if you want to give the liquid mix some color (and make it easier to differentiate the alcohol layer from the layer of oil that we will add next). Note: if you want to use your snow globe for decorative purposes, skip the food coloring altogether.
- Fill the remainder of the bottle with baby or vegetable oil (the oil will sit on top of the alcohol). Leave a bit of room in the lid area for the tiny, shiny stuff.
- Add glitter, sequins, small beads or any other tiny, shiny objects.
- Fill the remainder of the bottle, all the way to the rim, with baby oil.
- Screw the lid on tightly. Tape it so it does not come loose (or apply a little glue to the inside of the lid before twisting in on). Note: If you are using a wide-mouth jar for your bottle, you can also glue some sort of decoration (e.g. church, snowman, Christmas tree, plastic deer, etc.) to the inside of the lid before putting the lid on the jar.
- Gently shake the bottle to mix the alcohol and oil together. The mixture will turn a milky color and the shiny stuff will float and spin in the mixture.
- Allow the mixture to settle. The oil will separate from the alcohol after about 5 minutes.
Additional information about the Snow Globe experiment
In this case, due to difference in densities, the oil sinks below the alcohol. The interaction between two oil molecules is weaker than the interaction between two alcohol molecules and hence, they don’t mix well. Alcohols are polar molecules which attract each other with strong permanent dipole forces. Oil on the other hand, is non-polar and so only attracts other oil molecules with temporary dipole forces that are much weaker. The oil ends up sinking to the bottom of the bottle because the oil is denser than alcohol.
Supplies needed for the Snow Globe experiment
- Rubbing Alcohol (isopropyl)
- Vegetable oil or baby oil
- Clear plastic bottle or glass container
- Small beads (and/or sequins, glitter, or anything else tiny and shiny)
- Food coloring
- Clear tape