Film Canister Rocket

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film canister rocket

Film Canister Rocket

This experiment will give kids the ‘bang’ they are looking for, and will give them a beginner course on chemistry and air pressure at the same time. Create a film canister rocket that uses the chemical reaction of Alka-Seltzer and water to create gas and energy and launch into the sky. Bound to entertain even the most video game-addicted kids!

What You Will Need

– a plastic bottle with a snap top, like a film canister.
– water
– if you want, thin cardboard (like a cereal box) for making fins and a nose cone for the rocket
– 2 to 3 Alka-Seltzer Tablets

What You Will Do

Optional: make fins and a nose cone from the cardboard for your rocket. Attach them to the film canister with tape or hot glue. The nose cone needs to be on the bottom of the canister, because the cap-end will be facing down during the launch.

Fill the film canister up to ½ inch from the top with water. Drop in an Alka-Seltzer tablet, snap the lid in place and stand back!

Fizz will begin to leak out the bottom, slowly building to the point where it EXPLODES! Sometimes more than one tablet is needed to get the proper level of explosion. So experiment away!

What is Going On?

How does this explosion take place? It’s the same basic reaction that happens when baking soda and vinegar are mixed together in the classic volcano experiments. Alka-Seltzer is made of citric (acid) and sodium bicarbonate (base), but these components don’t interact with each other until they are immersed in water.

Acids and bases mixed together form carbon dioxide gas, creates the foamy bubbles that you see leaking out of the canister. As more carbon dioxide is formed, the pressure builds up inside the container until something must give, hence the cap flying off in such an entertaining explosion.

For a video of this experiment in action, check out this link.

Want a kit that makes this even easier? Get it here:

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Oliver Gauss
Oliver has a degree in physics and mathematics and has completed all but his dissertation for a Ph.D. in Physics. He believes actual science should decide scientific disagreements, and that most people who use "science" to defend their emotion-based opinions have no idea what science actually is. Oliver is the editor of WeWantScience.com and has two new sites coming out soon. Stay tuned!