Friday, July 1, 2011

Making Soap Mountains

We did the old standby experiment this week of Ivory Soap in the microwave. If you have not done this experiment yet, run don't walk to the nearest store and buy a few bars of Ivory Soap.

Take your bar of Ivory and cut it in half or thirds. Lay a piece of the soap on a paper plate and put it in the microwave for 45 seconds. You will be amazed at the results! The bar starts to expand and grow. It literally looks like a mountain of soap. When you look at it, it looks soft and squishy but looks can be deceiving. It is still hard just like a bar of soap.

This only works with Ivory soap but it will be beneficial to have another type of soap available to test also.

How it works:
When Ivory is manufactured they whip plenty of air into it. It is the only soap that floats in water. It does not float as well now as originally due to Proctor and Gamble changing the formula somewhat and adding glycerin to the mixture to keep it from dissolving so quickly. Back to the point though, when you heat up the soap it begins to soften and the air and water inside the soap will also heat up. When the water in the soap heats up, it vaporizes and when the air heats up, it expands causing the bar of soap to expand into a foam mass.

When you cut the bar of Ivory, look closely at the cut sides. Do you see bubbles or pockets of air in the soap? You would think you would since I just told you it contains lots of air but since the air is whipped into the soap during manufacturing you do not actually see the bubbles or air pockets.

The foam mass of soap that is now out of the microwave has not changed at all chemically. You can still wet it and build a lather. You can use it for a bath or shower. The only change is in the physical appearance. If you tried other bars of soap in the microwave you will see that they just begin to melt instead of expanding.

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