MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: I dont really understand how a vinegar volcano works,could you make it easy

Date: Fri Jan 19 14:22:07 2001
Posted By: Alex Barron, Graduate Student, Ecology(Biogeochemistry)
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 978358236.Ch


I assume you are making a vinegar volcano by combining vinegar and baking soda (or baking powder). Vinegar is also known as acetic acid and its chemical formula is CH3COOH. Baking soda is composed of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Acetic acid (vinegar) is a member of the chemical compounds called acids while sodium bicarbonate is a base. When you combine acids and bases together they react and neutralize each other.

The way a chemist writes this reactions is:

NaHCO3 + CH3COOH --> H2O + Na+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq) + CO2

Basically, all this means is that the acid and base react to form new compounds. These products are everything on the right hand side of the arrow. H2O is just water and the sodium ion (Na+) and acetate ion (CH3COO-) stay dissolved in the water (which is what the (aq) means). CO2, the other product, is carbon dioxide gas. This gas forms the bubbles that make the mixture foam and fizz.

This experiment is described on the MadSci web site here:
Baking powder volcano

If you want a foamier volcano, you can add a few drops of dishwashing soap. The soap helps the bubbles to last longer.

Have fun!

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