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    Home / Science projects / Rainbow Reaction Tube
    • Rainbow Reaction Tube

      Rainbow Reaction Tube

      Amaze your friends by mixing two solutions to make a rainbow! Watch as purple sinks to the bottom and red floats to the top, and they mix together to form every color in between.

      What You Need:

      What You Do:

      1. Put 15 drops of universal indicator in the graduated cylinder and add filtered water up to the 10 ml mark. The solution should be yellow-green.
      2. Add 3 drops of vinegar to the solution in the graduated cylinder, and it should turn red.
      3. In a beaker, put two scoops of sodium carbonate and then add about 30 ml of water. Mix together with the stirring rod until the sodium carbonate dissolves. The solution should be clear.
      4. To start the reaction, fill one dropper full with sodium carbonate solution. Squeeze the dropper into the graduated cylinder quickly, rather than drop by drop. The clear solution should instantly turn dark purple, and slowly sink to the bottom, swirling around to make the rainbow.
      5. Let the contents of the cylinder settle, until you can see each color from bluish-purple to red. To make the rainbow disappear, pour it into an empty beaker, and it should turn yellow or yellowish green.

      What Happened:

      Universal indicator changes colors to show the pH level of a substance. In this case, when you mixed an acidic solution (vinegar) with a basic one (sodium carbonate), the indicator made a colorful spectrum — from dark blue to red. Interestingly, if you had added the solutions in the opposite order, you would not have seen a rainbow. To get the rainbow effect, another scientific principle is at work—density. The sodium carbonate solution you made is denser than the indicator solution, so it sinks to the bottom. As the sodium carbonate solution makes its way to the bottom, some of its molecules mix with vinegar molecules, making a new solution, which shows up as a color of the pH scale.

      If you don't turn the graduated cylinder upside down, the rainbow will last several days. Over time the colors will mix together through the process of diffusion. The molecules of each solution will mix throughout the graduated cylinder, rather than staying concentrated at the top or bottom. Once you mix the acid and base solutions together, the solution will be pH neutral, and look yellow or slightly green.

      To make a different kind of rainbow tube, try making this rainbow density column with all household materials.

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    By: Natalie LaTurner
    Date: May 19, 2016

    Would it be possible to do this experiment with a homemade indicator of red cabbage juice?

    By: meesha richard
    Date: Mar 06, 2015

    this is a good project