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Thermo and Fluid Dynamics of a Homemade “Lava Lamp”

Lava lamps are just cool, that’s all there is to it. Most everyone has spent at least an hour of their life just staring at a lava lamp. While the experiment outlined here isn’t really the same as a commercial lava lamp it does demonstrate many of the important fluid and thermodynamic properties. Most importantly it provides students with an interesting and fun visual demonstration intended to motivate thought about the physics behind the experiment itself.

Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Curriculum Topic Benchmarks: M1.4.7, M1.4.8, S11.4.4, S12.4.7
Subject Keywords: Buoyancy, Density, Fluid, Hydrophobia, Surface Tension, Thermodynamics, Lava Lamp

Author(s): Dan Miller
PUMAS ID: 05_05_09_1
Date Received: 2009-05-05
Date Revised: 2009-09-05
Date Accepted: 2009-09-05

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