Changing Colors

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Learners experiment with a commercially available liquid-crystal coaster. They warm the material with their hands for varying lengths of time and observe the changing colors that result. As the liquid-crystal is heated, the molecules move around, changing the thickness and direction of each layer. Light reflects differently depending on the thickness and orientation of the layers, creating many changing colors. This activity is written to use a coaster, but there are multiple products which use liquid crystals that could be used. See materials list for options.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • One 4 in. by 4 in. piece of Fickle FoamTM (Davis Liquid Crystals, Inc., San Leandro, CA)
  • other items with heat-sensitive liquid-crystals (see resource for recommendations)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics

Informal Categories

  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation