3 simple and colorful lava lamps

Three colorful lava-lamp projects. Make them all!

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions



  • glass con­tain­er;
  • ton­ic wa­ter;
  • veg­etable oil;
  • UV light;
  • fizzy tablets;
  • wa­ter beads;
  • food col­or­ing;
  • wa­ter.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

  • Add some food col­or­ing to a glass of wa­ter. Trans­fer the tint­ed liq­uid to a glass con­tain­er. Care­ful­ly add some veg­etable oil and a few fizzy tablets. Your lava lamp is ready!
  • Pour some wa­ter beads into a glass. Im­merse them in wa­ter and wait 1 hour for them to swell. Trans­fer them to a glass vase and add wa­ter. Add a cou­ple of fizzy tablets to en­gage your col­or­ful bead kalei­do­scope!
  • Com­bine veg­etable oil and ton­ic wa­ter. Just add a few fizzy tablets, and your lava lamp is ready! Turn on the UV light for an ad­di­tion­al thrill – the wa­ter and bub­bles glow!

Process de­scrip­tion

Oil and wa­ter don't mix due to their molec­u­lar prop­er­ties. Wa­ter con­sists of po­lar mol­e­cules: each mol­e­cule has a pos­i­tive charge on one side and a neg­a­tive charge on the oth­er. Since op­po­sites at­tract, the wa­ter mol­e­cules at­tract each oth­er. Oil mol­e­cules are non­po­lar, or un­charged, so they do not at­tract wa­ter mol­e­cules; thus, the two don't mix. For the same rea­son, the high­lighter ink doesn't dis­solve in oil – but it does dis­solve in wa­ter. Veg­etable oil and wa­ter also have dif­fer­ent den­si­ties: the wa­ter sinks, and the oil ris­es to the top. Fizzy tablets usu­al­ly con­tain or­gan­ic acids and bak­ing soda. In wa­ter, they re­act with each oth­er to re­lease car­bon diox­ide. Since car­bon diox­ide gas is less dense than wa­ter and veg­etable oil, the gas bub­bles grad­u­al­ly make their way to the sur­face of the mix­ture. As they pass through the lay­ers of wa­ter and oil, the bub­bles lift droplets of wa­ter up through the oil. Once the gas dis­pers­es into the air, the wa­ter sinks back to the bot­tom. The wa­ter beads rise and fall sim­i­lar­ly, with the help of bub­bles, turn­ing into a col­or­ful kalei­do­scope.

Ton­ic wa­ter glows in UV light due to the qui­nine to its com­po­si­tion. It ab­sorbs UV ra­di­a­tion and glows blue.