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This Instructable will introduce the visually stunning effect called Marangoni bursting [1], explain the science behind it, and show how you can recreate this effect easily, and cheaply, at home or school.

As part of the Classroom Contest hosted by this tutorial will be presented in a format for teachers to readily adapt to a classroom environment, at a budget that is accessible to all schools and students. The Instructable builds up from basics and then iteratively applies what has been previously taught to each new situation. Teachers can follow the same steps in this Instructable by building up from an introduction of surface tension, to how surface tension creates Marangoni flows, to how the combination of surface tension and vapour pressure leads to a unique class of Marangoni flows called Marangoni bursting.

This Instructable is teachable at any level and would be great in a preschool environment purely for its visual enchantment, but for the deepest understanding of the science behind it students should be at least middle/high school age.

[1] L. Keiser, H. Bense, P. Colinet, J. Bico, and E. Reyssat. Marangoni Bursting: Evaporation-Induced Emulsification of Binary Mixtures on a Liquid Layer. PRL 118, 074504 (2017).

Step 1: 60 Minute Classroom Plan Advice

Picture of 60 Minute Classroom Plan Advice

At the start of the lesson introduce the experiment with a 5 minute demonstration of Marangoni Bursting at the front of the classroom (instructions below in step 5) to capture the students attention. Then spend 35 minutes discussing the science behind the effect (as presented in steps 2, 3, 4, and 6), completing intermediate experiments along the way. After establishing an understanding of the theory, allow students to use the remaining time to recreate the Marangoni bursting experiment from the start of class as in step 5. Encourage independent investigation by instructing the students to adjust the ratio of mixed liquids and document their observations qualitatively. Different ratios will lead to: changes in the rate of reaction, droplet size, and the number of droplets. As homework have students write a formal lab report in which they explain their observations using the theoretical principles of surface tension and vapor pressure from the earlier class discussion.

Quick note on oil disposal:
Realistically in a classroom environment it is likely that one to two liters of cooking oil will be used in this experiment: potentially an expensive plumbing bill if poured down the drain. Check with your municipality for the most appropriate method to dispose of oils.

jeanniel14 days ago
This is really well explained, and documented! What a fantastic effect - I'd known of the soap and pepper as well as oil and soap reactions before. I love how you were able to lay a paper atop and pick up the pattern. Reminds me of marbled papers - Thinned down oil paints floating atop water, and picked up with paper.
XTL jeanniel12 days ago
you can do marbled papers with oil on water but also with water based paints on top of carrageen in solution. Methocellulose is more readily available as a base. It would be interesting to try this effect on a methocellulose (methocel) base instead of oil. Probably require a higher concentration of isopropyl....
almateus23 days ago
Fantastic demo! Another experiment that fits really well is to place a drop of water on a glass plate and put a drop of ethanol (or isopropyl alcohol) next to it. You can see it in this video (sorry for the poor quality, old one). You can find the explanation and description of the experiment on Polarity, Miscibility, and Surface Tension of Liquids by Todd Silverstein in the Journal of Chemical Education.
AnandM5425 days ago
Brilliant instructables ..... Wow....
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This is next level! I've seen the basic milk/soap/food coloring demo before, but I haven't seen it this well explained anywhere else! Thank you for teaching me something new :).
Brilliant! Thank you for presenting this concept and including the scientific explanations as well as a detailed video. I hope everyone watches the video through the end. :) Those final shots are definitely visually stunning!