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Ivory Soap in Microwave Experiment
You can try the fun Ivory soap in a microwave activity at the next science fair you participate in. It results in a huge mass of foam on microwaving an Ivory brand soap. Since the electrical appliance is indispensable for this, adult supervision is a must for this project.
Ivory Soap in the Microwave Science Project
- A bar of Ivory brand soap
- Microwave oven
- Microwave-safe dish or paper towel
Steps to Microwave Ivory Soap
- Put the Ivory soap on the paper towel or dish and let it nuke for two minutes in high mode.
- All this while observe the bar closely. Its eruption into masses of attractive puffy clouds will not go unnoticed. It will be especially exciting for kids to watch the writhing, rolling and expanding soap soufflé as if it is alive.
- There is no need to overcook the soap. It has a maximum limit of expansion. Once that is reached, even if you continue to microwave, there will be no effect on the soufflé growth.
- Allow the soap to cool for a minute or two.
- Touch it. You will be amazed at the pleasing sensory experience of the fluffy Ivory soap cloud. It is smooth and silky and boasts of an incredible fragrance that fills the room after some time.
- Repeat the experiment with the other brands of soap and check the results.
The soap may have become puffy, but it is still rigid. It has not been wasted, though. Wet it and you will find that it lathers the same as before. So you cut or break it into smaller pieces and take it to the shower or put it in a bowl next to the sink.
A floral aroma lingers in the machine for quite some time. Just let open the microwave door for some time and the smell escapes quickly. Thus, the flavor of any cooking that you do later will not be affected.
Things you can try
- Put the Ivory soap along with various other brands of soap in water. Which ones sink and which are the ones that float?
- Heat the other brands of soap in the microwave. Which are the ones that expand the most?
- Carefully heat the bars on the stove. What happens? Do you observe anything different from that while nuking them?
Video on Microwaving Ivory Soap
How Does It Work?
Since Ivory soap has air whipped into it during manufacture, it is rendered less dense than water. Hence, even though the bar has no visible air pockets embedded in it, it can float in water. Heating the soap firstly, softens it. Secondly, the air and water whipped into the soap get heated too. This causes the air to expand. The water, on the other hand, vaporizes and forms bubbles that also start expanding in their turn. The resulting air pressure causes the already softened soap to expand into foam.
It is worth noting that the process involves just a physical change in the shape and size of the microwaved soap with its chemical properties remaining intact. The experiment also demonstrates the statement of Charles’ Law that the pressure of a given mass of gas remaining constant, its volume increases proportionally with an increase in temperature. Redoing the activity with other types of soap simply melts them since they lack such whipped air in their contents.
Making Ivory Soap Clouds – Tips to Safety
- You should not leave the microwave unattended while the experiment is on.
- No metal plate should be used to hold the soap while nuking.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after completing the activity. If it gets into your eyes, they will burn. Also, though it is not toxic, you would still not want to eat it accidentally, would you?
The activity will easily become popular with kids once they get to feel the gigantic puffy clouds. They can examine how the appearance of the soap has changed. They can rub it between their hands and watch the foam crumble into pieces. Any which way, this simple educative experiment guarantees tons of fun.
Published on November 18th 2015 by Papiya Dutta under Science Fair Projects. Article was last reviewed on 18th November 2015.