Fun and easy science experiments for kids and adults.

Dry ice giant crystal ball bubble

Place dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) in a bowl of water and watch it bubble away. Then trap the gas in a giant soap bubble. This is an experiment about states of matter.
Gilla: Dela:



  • Dry ice - About 1 dl (1/2 cup) is needed for this experiment. Either block or pellets.
  • If you buy a block:
    • 1 towel
    • 1 hammer (or something else to break the ice)
  • 1 large and round bowl
  • 1 cup (or something similar)
  • 1 strip of fabric (for example a shoelace or a strip of sheet)
  • Dawn (or Fairy) dish soap
  • Glycerin
  • Water
  • Safety equipment: 1 glove or 1 pair of tongs


These risks exist:
  • The freezing point of carbon dioxide is -78.5 °C (-109.3 °F), but carbon dioxide ice can be much colder than that. There is a risk of frostbite on contact with the skin. However, touching smoke or bubbles formed with the help of carbon dioxide is safe.
  • Carbon dioxide sublimates (changes from solid form to gaseous form) in everyday temperatures, which results in a large amount of carbon dioxide gas that can push the air away. There is a risk of drowsiness, headache or, in the worst case scenario, unconsciousness or suffocation. However, if you only use one block of carbon dioxide and have normal ventilation, you don't need to worry.
  • Never put dry ice in a closed container. There is a risk of explosion when the ice sublimates.
Therefore, take the following safety precautions:
  • Do not touch dry ice with bare hands.
  • Make sure to have very good ventilation.
  • Practice what to do if someone is injured by dry ice:
    • Inhalation: Move to fresh air. Rest. Get medical attention if necessary.
    • Skin contact: In case of frostbite, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Use sterile bandage. Get medical attention.
    • Eye contact: In case of frostbite, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Use sterile bandage. Get medical attention.
    • Ingestion: Get medical attention.

Step 1

Mix 17 parts water, 2 parts glycerin och 1 part Dawn/Fairy dish soap in the cup.

Step 2 (if you've bought a block)

Wrap the dry ice block in the towel. Whack it to pieces using the hammer.

Step 3

Fill a quarter of the large bowl with warm water. The hottest water from the tap is warm enough.

Step 4

Put about 1 dl (1/2 cup) of dry ice in the warm water, either in the form of one large piece or several small ones. Use a glove or tongs.

Step 5

Soak the fabric strip in the soap bubble mixture.

Step 6

Drag the strip slowly over the large bowl, so that a film of soap bubble solution forms. You may have to do this a few times before you succeed. Wetting the rim of the bowl with soap bubble solution can help. Be careful not to get any solution into the bowl.

Step 7

See how a giant bubble forms!

Step 8

Wait until it bursts and the smoke "flows" out over the table.

Short explanation

Carbon dioxide sublimates at room temperature. That is, changes from solid to gas. This happens faster in warm water, and lots of bubbles of carbon dioxide gas are formed. Here you capture the gas in a large soap bubble. The carbon dioxide gas is extremely cold and cools the air. This causes water vapor in the air to condensate, that is change from gas to liquid, and become visible as smoke.

Long explanation

Every pure substance can exist in different forms, each with distinct properties. These different forms are called states of matter. In everyday life, the three states of matter that are commonly observed are solid, liquid and gas. Then there are a few more that exist at extremely high or low temperatures, such as plasma, Bose-Einstein condensate, and quark-gluon plasma.

In a solid state, the pure substance's particles (atoms, ions or molecules) are tightly packed and stuck together. In a liquid state, they are still close together, but can move relative to each other. In a gaseous state, they have completely separated from each other. The factors determining the state of a pure substance is pressure and temperature. At high pressure and/or low temperature, a pure substance is solid. At low pressure and/or high temperature, a pure substance is a gas. In between, the pure substance is a liquid.

There are words for when a substance changes from one state of matter to another:
  • Melting: solid → liquid
  • Sublimation: solid → gas
  • Vaporization: liquid → gas
  • Condensation: gas → liquid
  • Deposition: gas → solid
  • Freezing: liquid → solid
Liquid carbon dioxide can be formed at pressures of 5.1 atm or higher. But under normal pressure, carbon dioxide changes directly from a gaseous to a solid state (deposits) and vice versa (sublimes). This takes place at 78.5 °C (-109.3 °F). This is the reason solid carbon dioxide is called dry ice, due to the fact that is doesn't melt.

The reason carbon dioxide "skips" its liquid state and sublimates/deposits is that the molecule is completely symmetrical and thus not a dipole. This means that the separate molecules are only held together by weak van der Waals bonds (and not also dipole bonds like water molecules). As soon as they get enough kinetic energy to break free from each other, they do so completely.

Carbon dioxide as a gas is odorless in low concentrations. In higher concentrations, however, it smells sour. The gas is always colorless. The density of carbon dioxide gas is 1.67 times that of air, which means it can flow down the edge of a table and settle down on the floor.

When carbon dioxide ends up in water, sublimation goes faster than in air. That's because water conducts heat better than air. Large amounts of carbon dioxide gas are quickly formed, which are visible as bubbles in the water.

Smoke is also produced. It is not carbon dioxide, but water. The carbon dioxide gas that ends up in the air is extremely cold, which causes water vapor in the air to condensate into small water droplets, which are visible as smoke. This smoke is cold, which means that, just like carbon dioxide gas, it flows over the edge of the table down to the floor.

In the water, carbonic acid is formed. This is because a small percentage of the carbon dioxide gas reacts with the water and forms carbonic acid. If you would taste the water, it would taste a bit sour - just like in a carbonated beverage.

The giant soap bubble that forms consists of water, dish soap and glycerin. A bubble of only water would soon burst as the water evaporates. However, by making bubbles of a mixture of water and dish soap this can be remedied. In such a bubble, the layer of water is surrounded by a layer of dish soap on both sides. The layers of dish soap prevent the evaporation of water and the soap bubbles last longer. If you also add glycerin, the bubble will be even more durable. Glycerin settles in the water layer and attracts the water molecules, making it even more difficult for them to evaporate. A recipe for large bubbles can not contain too much glycerin, because then the bubble becomes too heavy and bursts under its own weight.


You can turn this demonstration into an experiment. This will make it a better science project. To do that, try answering one of the following questions. The answer to the question will be your hypothesis. Then test the hypothesis by doing the experiment.
  • What if you use more dry ice?
  • What if you use cold water?
  • What if you use boiling hot water?
  • What if you don't use glycerin in the soap bubble mixture?
  • What if you use a bigger bowl?
  • What if you use a small glass instead of a bowl?
  • What if you place some lit tealights around the bowl?


To make a glowing bubble, you can place a water-resistant flashlight in a glass in the water, so that the flashlight is pointing upwards. If you have a completely waterproof lamp, you can place it directly in the water. A strong lamp and a dark room are required, because the smoke is dense.

If your bowl is transparent, it looks cool to put food coloring in the water.
Gilla: Dela:


Content of website

© The Experiment Archive. Fun and easy science experiments for kids and adults. In biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, astronomy, technology, fire, air and water. To do in preschool, school, after school and at home. Also science fair projects and a teacher's guide.

To the top

© The Experiment Archive. Fun and easy science experiments for kids and adults. In biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, astronomy, technology, fire, air and water. To do in preschool, school, after school and at home. Also science fair projects and a teacher's guide.

To the top
The Experiment Archive by Ludvig Wellander. Fun and easy science experiments for school or your home. Biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, astronomy, technology, fire, air och water. Photos and videos.