Instant Cloud!

After the recent flooding here in the Midwest, I can tell you that some of us just want to see that glorious sunshine stick around for a while. But if you’d still like to see a little cloudiness in your day, you can get your fix by making these instant clouds — right in the comfort of your own home. After all, we can’t control the weather!

The Oakland Toy Lab gave us a fun and easy Instructables tutorial for Instant Cloud, so if you’re looking for some fun summer projects to do with the kids, look no further. All this project involves is some isopropyl alcohol (99%), a water bottle, a rubber stopper (with no hole), a bike pump (with a sports needle), a drill, and some good ol’ science. The concept is based on pressure, meteorology, physics, adiabatic process, and water cycle. They use alcohol instead of water because of the process of the cloud formation. The alcohol is put under pressure from the force of air from the bike pump, which causes the molecules to behave like springs that have been squished too tight, releasing them into the air in vapor form.

Alcohol works better than water because the hydrogen bonding (cohesive force) of alcohol isn’t as tight as it is with water, allowing it to spring up easier and form quicker. This experiment can be kind of dangerous, especially around flames. When under pressure and mixed with fire, this project can quickly turn into a fiery rocket, which they say is a whole fun experiment in itself, but not what we are going for here. Another place, another time.

Be sure to use caution when pumping up and releasing big amounts of pressure, especially around kids. Just make sure you keep a hand on it so that the parts don’t fly up mid-experiment. There are many different fun things you can try with this experiment too, like using water or milk instead of alcohol, or pumping it less, or more, and you can do it over and over again!