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    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

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Learners observe a bottle containing water and oil. They are invited to pick up the bottle and mix the contents together. Because of their poor miscibility, oil and water can form “ocean waves” in a bottle. The molecules in food coloring mix well (are miscible) with polar water molecules but not with the long hydrocarbon molecules of oil, so only the water layer is colored. The oil is less dense (lighter) than water so the oil layer floats on top of the water.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • One small plastic soft-drink bottle
  • Mineral oil (250 ml)
  • Water (250 ml)
  • Food coloring
  • Electrician's tape


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Volume and Density


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



  • All Rights Reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, ©1997

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation


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