Glycerine (glycerin) is a sweet, colourless, odourless, viscous liquid that is widely used in laboratories, industry, around the home, making soaps and cosmetics and umpteen other uses. As well as serious applications it can also be used for many fun experiments and below is just a few that you can try out at home, in school or even at work.
List of Fun experiments with glycerin
- Making your own snow globes.
- Creating giant soap bubbles
- Preserving branches
- Making Lip balm and Lip gloss
- How to make glass disappear and reappear
- The Potassium Permanganate and Glycerine Exothermic Reaction
- Bread clay
Making you own snow globes:
What you will need:
- An empty glass jar with a leak proof lid. You can use a jam jar or a larger one if you wish.
- A figurine, a toy etc Make sure that it is not going to be damaged sitting in water and that it will fit in the jar.
- Glitter (any colour you like).
- Waterproof glue.
- Food colouring (optional)
Remove the lid from the jar and glue the figurines etc to the inner side of the lid. Set it aside and allow to dry fully.
Turn the jar, right side up and pour in a few teaspoons of glycerine. Then half fill with water, stir thoroughly to ensure that the glycerin is full dissolved and add the glitter and food colouring: Finally fill up the jar with more water to about an inch from the top.
When the glue has dried on the lid, carefully place the lid on the jar avoiding hitting the glued-on object from being damaged as it is immersed in the liquid. You should see some water overflowing from the jar which is fine as you do not want any air in the snow globe. Tighten as tight as possible. Turn your jar onto its lid and check that no water is leaking. If there is any leaking you will need to remove the lid and apply some glue into the groves so that it seals it properly.
Creating Giant soap bubbles:
This is a cheap and highly enjoyable way to make your own soap bubbles that will keep children and adults entertained for hours. It makes excellent entertainment at parties, fairs, days out in the park or just in the privacy of your own back garden. It is also a great experiment to try at school to help teachers explain the chemistry and physics of bubbles.
What you will need:
- 5Litres of water
- 500mls of good quality washing up liquid.
- 50mls of clear glycerine
- A bucket
- A plastic paddling pool or other large shallow container
- coat hangers or a hula hoop
- For enormous bubbles you will need 2 bamboo canes, 2 pieces of light string (one longer than the other) 2 eye hooks, a pair of pliers and 2 or 3 fishing shot weights.
Make up the solution in a bucket by slowly adding and mixing the detergent and glycerine into the water avoiding too much agitation so as not to produce foam. For the best quality bubbles you should let the solution rest for a day or so. The glycerine is used to improve the quality and longevity of the bubbles.
For simple, smaller bubbles you can use virtually any object with one or more holes in it. Try using a tennis racket, a kitchen whisk, cake shape cutters, a bubble pipe, or just a piece of wire in the shape of a circle.
For large bubbles pour the soap bubble solution into a small paddling pool or similar. Use a hula hoop to produce the bubbles by laying it flat in the liquid for a few seconds and then lifting it out slowly. Hold it flat and then quickly raise it, tilting it towards you to produce the bubble. Alternatively take a coat hanger and shape it into circle using the curved end as a handle.
For the super sized bubbles take 2 bamboo canes and screw two eye hooks into one end of each of the canes. Tie a length of light string to each of the eyes and then tie a second, about 2/3 the length of the first string to the sames eyes. The length of strings can be as long as you like and the longer they are the bigger the bubbles will be. It is necessary to add some weight to the longer piece of string and this can easily be achieved by using a few small fishing shot weights attached to the centre of the string using a pair of pliers. To produce the bubbles dip the ends of the bamboo with the string attached into a bucket of the soap solution. Lift it out and pull the bamboo canes apart so that you have a triangular shape of string in front of you. Step backwards and as the air passes through the string the bubble forms. It will take some practice to get the perfect bubble but once you have mastered it you will have endless fun.
Preserving Tree Branches, flowers and leaves:
- Cut branches when colour begins to change, before the leaves are completely tinted. (Fully turned leaves are too dry and brittle.) Beech, oak, wild apple, mountain ash and copper beech are well suited for this method of preservation.
- Use a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part glycerine. The amount needed depends on the size of the branches. (The stems must be in liquid to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.)
- Trim off any small twigs at the bottom of the branch. Slit the bottom of each stem with a sharp knife to 3 or so inches.
- Next, bruise the stalks with a hammer.
- Arrange the branches in a container of the water/glycerine mixture and place in a cool room for a week to ten days. The leaves will last for years! Makes great centerpieces and displays.
- You can do the same thing to preserve flowers, grasses and leaves and any other vegetation that you want to display or just keep for fun.
How to make your own Lip Balm and Lip Gloss:
You can make your own lip gloss easily with a few basic ingredients including glycerine. Glycerin is used in many cosmetic products as it is a natural moisturiser helping to keep lips and skin supple and hydrated.
- Glycerine (1 teaspoon)
- Coconut oil or beeswax (7 grams)
- vegetable oil (4 tablespoons)
- Natural food colouring (optional)
- Natural food flavouring oils used in cake making. (5 drops)
- Microwave safe dish
- Glass jar
- Hand whisk
Place the glycerine and beeswax / coconut oil in a dish and heat in a microwave until a clear solution is produced. Carefully lift out the hot dish and beat the solution with a hand whisk until a creamy mixture. Add in the glycerine, the food flavouring and colouring if desired and continue mixing until all the ingredients are fully blended. Cool down and store in a sealable glass jar.
When choosing you flavouring avoid using alcohol based products and look for essential oil types. You can look for fruity, minty, vanilla flavourings which all work well. Other types of essential oils like tea tree oil and rosemary have healing benefits.
How to make a piece of glass disappear and reappear:
If you take a piece of glass and drop it into a beaker of water we can clearly see it but if we place the same piece of glass in a beaker of Glycerin it will completely disappear. Now if you warm the beaker of glycerine the piece of glass starts to become clearly visible again. Why?
A better illustration of this experiment – Fill up a small narrow glass bottle with glycerine. Half fill a glass bowl or large drinking glass with water. Immerse the bottle of glycerin into the water and you can see the bottle quite clearly. Now empty out the water, dry the bowl and half fill with more glycerine. Now see what happens when you immerse the bottle of glycerine into the bowl – the bottle disappears….now that’s chemistry magic!!
Everyone knows that when you place a pencil in a beaker of water the pencil looks like it is bent and distorted. This is because of a property of light called refraction. Refraction causes light to bend when it passes from one substance into another, in this case from air to water. Since light travels slower in water than in air, water is said to have a greater optical density and refractive index.
Similarly when the piece of glass is dropped in the water the light travels slower through the glass than through the water and we can clearly see it as easily as if it was sitting on our hand.
In the case of glass and glycerol, these two have very similar refractive indexes (approx 1.47) and light passing through both mediums will bend the light by the same amount and there is no change in the path of light rays passing through both the mediums. Because of this we cannot detect the presence of piece of glass in the glycerin and hence the piece of glass looks invisible for our eyes. When we heat the glycerine the refractive index of the glass changes and light passes through it faster as if it were passing through water. Now the refractive indexes of the glycerine and glass are different and the light is bent through the glass making the glass visible.
The Potassium Permanganate and Glycerine Exothermic Reaction:
Please Note – this experiment is potentially hazardous producing fire and gas and must only be done by experienced adults in a safe controlled environment, either in a fume cupboard or outdoors. Always make sure that a bucket of sand is at hand to control the fire if necessary.
The experiment illustrates the oxidising power of potassium permanganate and that glycerine is a carbohydrate, a good source of energy. It also shows how an exothermic reaction occurs creating heat and light spontaneously from 2 chemicals.
What you will need
- A pestle and mortar
- A ceramic dish
- A dropper
- Potassium permanganate
First weigh out about 10g of potassium permanganate crystals and grind up to a very fine powder. Wear suitable personnel protection equipment to prevent inhaling any of the fine powder. Then place in a small pile in the centre of a ceramic dish and carefully using a dropper place 5 drops of glycerine into the centre of the pile. After less than a minute smoke will start appearing as the reaction begins and all of a sudden it will burst into a bright purple flame.
Making bread clay:
Making bread clay is simple yet fun to do for children of all ages. It can be moulded into all sorts of sizes and shapes and painted.
- 6 slices of white bread with crust removed.
- PVA glue (6 tablespoons)
- Glycerine (2 tablespoons)
- Food colouring (optional)
- Mixing bowl.
Break up the bread in a bowl and add the PVA glue. Knead the mixture until a uniform paste is formed. Add the glycerine and food colouring and continue blending. Remove the paste and cut into desired shapes either using cookie cutters or moulding into your own shape. Brush the shape with an equal mixture of glue and water for a glossy finish. Allow to dry overnight before painting with acrylic paints.