Let’s start with one of Samantha’s legendary jokes: What did the soda can say when he got all the answers right on his math test? (I’ll give you a hint, it has to do with our experiment today) He said “I CRUSHED it.” Today we are going to show you how you can crush a soda can with the power of air right at home.
Materials to Collect
- Empty aluminum cans
- Heat source (stove top works well)
- Shallow pan of cold water with ice
- Safety goggles
Put about a tablespoon of water in the can. Place the can on the stove top or heat source. If you have a gas stove, try placing a frying pan on the burner and then the can. Have the shallow pan with water and a few ice cubes next to it. When the water in the can starts to boil, put on your safety goggles, then grab the can with the tongs and very quickly flip the can upside down in the ice water, and watch it implode!
What is the Science?
When you heat up the can, the water inside turns to water vapor. This gas takes up much more space than the water did in its liquid form. When you invert the can into the water, the water vapor rapidly cools and turns back to a liquid, taking up much less space than it did as a gas. Because the mouth of the can is in the water, the air outside can’t get in to fill the void left by the cooled water, and the outside air pressure, being much greater than the inside pressure, pushes against the can, causing it to implode!
Ask Your Young Scientists
- Why do you think there is so much more water in the can after it implodes?
- What might happen if we put more water in the can? What about less?
More to Explore
- Try changing the amount of water in the can to see what happens.
- Try changing the temperature of the water in the pan, will it work with warm water?
- Try letting the water boil for different lengths of time. Does it make the can implode more or less?
We want to see what you try at home. Share your experiments with us on social media by using the #ScienceAtPlay and tagging @CTScienceCenter.
Andrew Fotta is a STEM educator at the Connecticut Science Center. He has currently holds a CT teaching certification for grades K-6, and has spent time in the classroom in nearly all grades, and taught middle school science. In addition to teaching classes for the Science Center, Andrew is also part of a team of educators currently creating new programs aligned with the new Next Generation Science Standards for grades PreK-9. Andrew is an avid photographer, who enjoys blending science and art in his work.