In this science experiment we will make a paperclip float on water. We will explore the concept of surface tension and have some fun while doing it!
Materials: - Paperclip - Fork - Bowl of Water - Dish Detergent
Watch Video: The Floating Paperclip Experiment
Process Floating Paperclip Experiment:
1. Put the Paperclip on the edge of the fork and gently lower it into the bowl of water. Use a dry paper clip and dry fork for best results.
2. Gently lift the fork out of the water without touching the paper clip.
3. What did the paperclip do? Did it sink? Did it float?
4. Observe the paperclip. If you look closely at the edge of the paperclip you can see the surface tension holding it afloat (bottom picture to the right).
5. When your ready add a drop or two of liquid dish soap near the paper clip. What happens?
The Science Behind The Floating Paperclip Experiment :
Water is a polar chemical. That means each water particle, called a molecule, has a positive and negative charge. The water molecules are attracted to each other and "stick" together. The positive end of one molecule sits next to the negative end of another molecule. The water particles at the surface "stick" only to particles next to and below them. this makes the surface act as if it had a thin "skin". This is called surface tension. The surface tension of water is strong enough to support a paperclip! The fork helps you lower the paperclip gently into the water without breaking the surface tension.
When you put soap into the water, it disrupts the order of the water molecules. The water molecules are no longer lined up from positive to negative, so the surface tension is no longer strong enough to support the weight of the paperclip. The paperclip falls into the water. Now go try the floating paperclip experiment yourself with some friends.