Learn a Magic Trick
The following is a chemical effect that I developed to produce color changing liquid. All of the chemicals are available to the average consumer.
Use of the chemicals for this effect are at your own risk. Some of these chemicals are toxic if taken internally. As with all chemical effects, adult supervision is essential. Follow all warnings on each chemical used.
No one associated with this page will be responsible for any injury resulting from the information therein.
Several containers of clear liquid are displayed. A dye is placed in one of the containers and it changes to a golden yellow. Another clear liquid is added and it turns to a deep blue/black. A third clear liquid changes it to a wine red, and the fourth one restores it to sparkling clear again.
You will need the following chemicals:
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Tincture of Iodine
- Ex-Lax(R) Tablets* (the pills, not the chocolate stuff)
- Corn Starch
- Washing soda with ammonia
- White Vinegar
- Hypo (sodium thiosulphate) from a photography supply store
- Dissolve one Ex-Lax tablet in 2 oz. of rubbing alcohol to make a phenolphthalein solution.
(*note: Since the original writing, Ex-Lax has changed their formula. You will probably need to get phenolphthalein solution from a chemical supply house or a chemistry teacher.)
- Heat 8 oz. of water to boiling and dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch in it.
- Dissolve 3 tsp. washing soda in 8 oz. of water.
- Dissolve 1 tsp. hypo in 8 oz. water.
All measurements are approximate. Experiment with different quantities for the effect you want.
The first solution should be plain water. Adding a few drops of iodine will turn it golden yellow.
The next solution should be the washing soda with a little starch water mixed in. The starch reacts with the iodine to make a blue/black color. If you use the starch and iodine sparingly you get a nice navy blue for U.S. patriotic themes. Larger concentrations look nearly black. Experiment to get just the effect you want.
The next solution should be hypo with a little Ex-Lax solution mixed in. The hypo combines with the iodine to cancel out the starch reaction and make the solution clear. The phenolphthalein in the Ex-Lax turns red in the presence of a base (ammonia) giving the next color change. The final solution is the white vinegar, which neutralizes the ammonia and makes everything clear again.
(Note: By alternately adding washing soda and vinegar to the solution you can change back and forth between red and clear.)
A color changing liquid is only a chemical curiosity unless there is a story to support it. I sometimes use a patriotic theme with Blue representing Truth, Red for Courage and White for Purity. You may want to mix this with a flag production for a finale. You could also skip the iodine and hypo and do a water-to-wine-to-water effect. The main thing is to have an entertaining story and use the color changes to highlight the events.
These colors work beautifully with the "wordless book" Gospel presentation. Gold represents heaven with its golden streets, and sunlight reminding us that God is light, and He wants us to live with Him in heaven. The next solution can be labeled "Sin", and when it comes into our lives it puts us into spiritual darkness, separating us from God and His plan. Label the next solution "Jesus" who shed his blood to cleanse us from sin, and the last solution "Faith" by which we receive His cleansing and forgiveness.
The easy way
Rev. Douglas E. Stoll has put together a similar effect that you can purchase very reasonably. It only has one color change, but all of the materials are included with enough chemicals for about 20 presentations. Refills are available. Visit his web site for a demonstration and ordering information.
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