I must admit that I am not a big fan of the commercial side of Valentine’s day but I have no problem with the idea of telling someone you love just how much they mean to you. When I get to couple the sentiment with some science experimenting then my heart really does skip a beat. Check out these cool valentine science experiments that would make some pretty unique (and educational) gifts for the someone special in your life.
Say it with flowers
Who doesn’t love flowers on Valentine’s Day? With a little bit of science you can add an extra twist to this staple gift. Try these CHROMATOGRAPHY flowers…
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Some paper (we used regular white A4 paper here)
- A selection of water soluble coloured markers
- A pencil
- A ruler
- A paperclip
- A glass or beaker
- A jug of water
- Some wire or pipe cleaners
What to do:
Fold your paper in half down the long side and then open it out again.
Using your ruler and a pencil, draw a line either side of the crease, the line should be about 2 cm from the crease on each side.
Choose the colours you would like to use and place large dots of each colour along these lines, leaving about 1 – 2 cm between each dot. Alternate the colours in whatever way you wish.
Once you have that done it is time to fold your paper. You need to fold along the shorter side, start at one end and fold the edge of the paper in about 2 cm. Turn over the paper and fold back another 2 cm. Turn over the paper and keep going like this until you reach the other side of the paper.
Keeping the paper folded, fold it in half and secure with a paperclip.
Trim the tops of the folded paper on each side. I used a serrated scissors but you could just cut into a pointy shape or round off the ends, whatever you prefer.
Pour about 1 cm of water into your glass (or beaker) and place the folded paper into the glass, as in the photo below. You want the end of the paper to sit into the water below the dots of markers, you don’t want the water level to reach the dots though.
Now you just need to wait a while. You should see the water creeping up the paper, spreading out the marker ink as it moves upwards. Once the water reaches the top of the paper you can remove it from the beaker and place it somewhere warm to dry.
Replace the paper clip with a strip of wire or a pipe cleaner, and twist it to close. This will be the stem of the flower.
Once dry it is time to open out the paper, into a flower shape, and see what a colourful CHROMATOGRAPHY flower you have made. You can try different types of paper, blotting paper works really well.
The science bit:
This experiment used a scientific technique called CHROMATOGRAPHY to separating different chemicals; in this case the chemicals are the inks in coloured markers. As the water creeps up the paper (by a process called CAPILLARY ACTION) it dissolves the different inks that make up the colour. These inks separate out as the water moves upwards and you get lovely streaks of colours through the paper.
If you prefer real flowers to artificial ones you can still use a bit of science to add some extra colour; Here are two of our favourites (click the images below to find out how to make these beautiful coloured flowers while learning all about TRANSPIRATION!).
Make a multicoloured Rose (click the image to find out more).
Or try making a rainbow bunch of flowers, click the image above to go to the blog post.
2. You make my heart spin
I’ll admit these do take an extra bit of time and effort but they are really worth it and give a nice WOW factor. Your Valentine will be amazed with a gift like this… left wondering just how you did it. This experiment requires ADULT SUPERVISION!
Here is what you’ll need:
- Some copper wire
- a pliers
- a strong scissors or wire cutter
- A battery (AA work just fine), I used a D battery here
- A neodymium magnet (these are strong, rare earth magnets, often found in electrical appliances but can be purchased in many specialised shops)
- Some items to decorate (optional)
And this is what you do:
You can start by decorating your battery with love hearts or similar stationary if you wish.
Place the neodymium magnet on the base (minus side) of the battery, it will ‘stick’ to the metal.
Now for the tricky bit, you need to make a connection from the positive end of the battery, to the other side (the magnets in this case) to complete an electrical circuit. You can see from the photo and video below that I shaped one end of the copper wire into a heart shape with a little ‘stalk’ to sit on the top of the battery. I then wrapped the remaining wire around the battery and finally, I wrapped the end of the wire around the neodymium magnet (in this case I used two small neodymium magnets, one on top of the other). You will know if the circuit is complete as the battery and copper wire will heat slightly. However in order to get the wire to start to move you need to ensure that the wire is balanced correctly and is not wrapped too tightly around the battery or magnet. It will take a bit of patience and ‘tweaking’ to get this right, but, hopefully you will be rewarded by a lovely spinning heart 🙂
Want to know how it works?
Congratulations, you have just created a HOMOPOLAR MOTOR and, by combining an elctrical current and a magnetic field, working in specific directions, you have generated a force called LORENTZ force, that makes the copper wire move.
To put it as simply as possible, the copper wire connect to the positive and negative ends of the battery, completing a circuit and creating an electrical current that runs through the wire. The neodymium magnet generated a permanent magnetic field. In this set up the electrical current is perpendicular to the magnetic field and this generated teh Lorentz Force which acts on the copper wire, making it move!
NOTE: This experiment requires adult supervision! An electrical current can generate heat and you need to be careful that nothing gets too hot.
3. Gooey with love
Slime may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a Valentine’s day gift but this one is the prettiest slime I’ve ever made, and it has love hearts and sparkles in it, so what’s not to love. Plus… a few minutes playing with this stuff is time well spent, it is actually a great stress busting exercise, try it and see!
What you will need:
- A bottle of clear glue
- A jug of water
- Bowl and something to stir with
- A cup or small plastic cup or a second bowl
- Borax powder
- glitter and mini hearts (or any decoration of your choice)
Here is what you do:
Pour a small amount of clear glue into your bowl (we used a 10 ml at a guess). Add the little of the love hearts and glitter, just a small sprinkle of each is fine.
Give all that a good mix and then leave to the side while you make up the borax solution
In the cup (or jug) make up your borax solution; you want to dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of borax powder in a cup measure of warm water (about 240 ml); Stir until fully dissolved.
Still the glue constantly and add a very small amount of borax solution. Keep stirring all the time. As soon as the glue is no longer sticky you can pick it up in your hands and start kneading and molding it, for a few minutes.
I will admit that I had a lot of trouble coming up with a good recipe here. I am used to working with white glue (PVA) which makes great slime. The clear glue can get very rubbery slime which breaks easily. So the trick is to use small amounts and add as little borax solution as possible. Also, once the slime forms at all, take it into your hands and knead it.
You can even roll it into a ball and see how bouncy it is…
I know that borax is not easy to buy in Ireland at the moment so I will test out some alternatives and hopefully have a post next week with some borax-powder-free slime recipes!
The science bit:
Congratulation… you have just made a polymer!! In simple terms a polymer is a substance made up of lots of molecules arranged in long chains. If you imagine that the glue is like cooked spaghetti, it slides and slips around the place quite easily. When we add the borax to the glue it causes some of the molecules in the glue to stick together making the glue more rubbery and less liquid! Imagine if you took those strands of spaghetti and tied them together in places, the strands would not be able to slip and slide around nearly as much! The borax and glue mixture is just like your knotted spaghetti!
4. I Lava you
This is like two science experiments in one. It is an adaptation of this Ocean in a bottle experiment.
Here is what you will need:
- A clear bottle (plastic is safest) with lid
- A funnel
- A bottle of cooking oil (we used vegetable oil)
- A jug of water
- Red (or pink) food colouring
- Glitter and plastic miniature hearts
- (Antacid tablets, such as Alkaseltzer – and adult supervision!)
What you do:
First add a few drop of red food colouring to the water until you are happy with the colour.
Add about half a teaspoon of glitter and half a teaspoon of miniature hearts to the water and mix well.
Using the funnel, pour the coloured water into the bottle, filling it to about a third full.
Fill the rest of the bottle with oil (using the funnel again) and replace the lid. You will notice that the oil and water remain as two separate layers.
Hold the bottle on its side and tilt it slowly back and forwards, you will see the water moves like a coloured wave, it gives a lovely effect.
If you want to turn this into a Valentine’s lava lamp just stand the bottle back up again, open the lid and pop in half an antacid tablet (like Alkaseltzer) NOTE: these tablets are not for eating and this part must be supervised by an adult.
Pop the lid back on (don’t seal it fully though as gas will build up in the bottle) and watch your lovely lava lamp.
When it stops you can pop in another piece of Alkaseltzer and watch all over again.
The science bit:
This is a good experiment to explain density. The oil is less dense than the water so it will sit on top of the water, creating two separate layers. The layer of oil keeps the water contained within the bottom half of the water and makes the movement of the water look like waves where the two liquids meet.
When we add the Alkaseltzer tablets to the bottle we get a chemical reaction. The tablets contain an acid and a base (or alkali) in powder form. When the tablet sinks down to the water layer the tablet dissolves and the acid and base get to mix together, forming carbon dioxide gas. The gas forms bubbles, and is lighter than the water and oil so the bubbles float to the top of the bottle where they burst, leaving just a drop of water, which is more dense than the oil so it falls back down. This cycle gives a lovely lava lamp effect of bubbles and blobs rising and falling through the oil layer. We are loving this one in our house at the moment. The glitter and love hearts add a really lovely touch to the whole thing.
So there you have it… five of our favourite Valentine experiments, I’m sure you’ll agree, as well as being educational, these would make great gifts for someone you love! We hope you get as much fun out of making these as we did and remember to let us know how you get on!
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
If you’d like to know a little about the Science of Love, check out this post!