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Exploding Bags Experiment

I think everyone knows the old standby baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment. You know, the one where you spend 6 hours making a paper mache volcano and about 2 minutes doing the actual science experiment? It’s fun but it requires a lot of time, most of which is spend on arts and crafts rather than science (not that there’s anything wrong with arts and crafts but science is fun too! ­čÖé )

If you want to skip right to the science of what happens when baking soda and vinegar combine this is a great experiment which you can probably do with just some things you already have in the kitchen, no gooey paper mache required. As a bonus you get to create mini explosions so it’s easy to get the kids excited.

Supplies

One of the great things about this little experiment is that it can be done with things most people already have in the house.┬áHere’s what you’ll need.

Supplies

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Resealable plastic sandwich bags (cheap thin ones will work great)
  • Tissue paper or toilet paper
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions

I’d recommend doing this experiment outside. It can get a little messy with the vinegar and baking soda mixture going everywhere so being outside will help with clean up. It can also be done inside, must making sure you have some space and do it in area that will be easy to clean up (as in, not on the rug!).

  1. Pour vinegar into the plastic bag. We used about 1/3 of a cup but you can experiment with different amounts based on how large your bags are.
    Pour vinegar into bag
  2. Add a drop of food coloring to the plastic bag. This is completely optional, it just gives the mixture a cool color.
  3. Pour baking soda on to a small piece of tissue or toilet paper. You can experiment with different amounts of baking soda. We used 2-3 tablespoons.
    Add baking soda
  4. Fold up the tissue paper with the baking soda to make a small packet.
  5. Put the baking soda packet into the bag and then close the bag as quickly as possible.
  6. The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar should happen immediately, you can shake the bag ab it to make it go faster.
  7. Watch the bag inflate as it fills up with carbon dioxide formed by the reaction between the vinegar and baking soda. The bag will eventually pop once the pressure inside the bag is too high. If the bag doesn’t pop try experimenting with the amounts of vinegar to baking soda.

Bag popping

What’s Happening?

Vinegar contains hydrogen ions and baking soda contains sodium and bicarbonate ions. When mixed together these ions react together to create carbonic acid and sodium acetate. The carbonic acid immediately begins to decompose into water and carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide gas fills the bag until the pressure becomes too much for the bag to hold. Once this happens the bag will pop!

Exploding bags experiment

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