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Awesome Science Experiment: Make Hot Ice with Baking Soda and Vinegar


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Here’s a fun science experiment that will definitely get a “wow” from the kids.  Combine baking soda and vinegar to make sodium acetate, or hot ice!  It crystalizes instantly when you pour it, allowing you to create a tower of crystals.  Since the process of crystallization is exothermic, the “ice” that forms will be hot to the touch.  Science is so cool!

Making hot ice is a simple process, and you probably have everything you need on hand.  You’ll need a couple of hours, though, so keep that in mind.

Step 1:  Combine 4 cups of vinegar and 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a pot.  Before we did this experiment, I read instructions for hot ice on a few different websites.  I decided to use the amounts given on Playdough to Plato.  Add the baking soda a little at a time so that when it fizzes it won’t overflow over the edges of your pot!

Janie and Jonathan were quite impressed with this step.

Step 2:  You have now made sodium acetate!  (As well as carbon dioxide – it was given off in the reaction, which created all that fizzing.)  You’ll need to boil the solution, though, to reduce the amount of water so that it is concentrated enough to form crystals.

Cook your solution over low to medium heat for about an hour.  You want to reduce it down to 1 cup or less.

Now, the stuff I read online said that crystals would start to form around the edge of the pan.  This is important because you’ll need a few crystals as “seeds” to start the crystallization process.  Well, our solution never formed crystals while it was cooking.  When it was down to 3/4 cup, I finally stopped boiling it.

Step 3:  Pour your sodium acetate into a glass container and put it in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes.

We did this, and while it was in the refrigerator, I scraped some of the dried solution off the sides of the pot, hoping that it would work as the crystals needed to start the reaction.

It didn’t work.  Boo.  We poured the solution over the pan scrapings, and nothing happened.

We tried putting it in the refrigerator for awhile longer.  Still nothing.

But, this experiment is very forgiving!  I left the solution on the counter and came back to it the next day.  I decided to boil it a little more – maybe it wasn’t concentrated enough.  And we had never seen any crystals form in the pan.  After about 10 more minutes of boiling, there still weren’t any crystals on the edges of the pan, but I decided that the solution was reduced down so far that we just had to stop.

As soon as I poured the solution out of the pan and into a glass jar, the remaining liquid in the bottom of the pan crystallized instantly!  So I knew we were getting somewhere!

This time, I put the solution in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  Much faster.


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