Aluminum foil floating on Sulfur Hexafluoride gas

The Kid Should See This

An open-top aluminum foil box sits in an aquarium as an invisible (and odorless) gas is poured into both containers. This quiet five and a half minute video makes for a wonderful discussion prompt: What is happening here? Why does the aluminum foil ‘boat’ start to float? And what’s happening when the aluminum foil sinks?

Aluminum foil floating on Sulfur Hexafluoride gas
Watch this excellent demonstration of aluminum foil floating on Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) gas, an anti-Helium of sorts. Some details from Steve Spangler Science:

Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is inert (won’t mix with anything) and non-toxic. It can do some surprising things even in small quantities. Except, don’t try these at home for two reasons:
• You have to be trained in its correct use and handling
• SF6 is quite expensive

SF6 is a gas that’s heavier than air. Like carbon dioxide (CO2), SF6 sinks and fills any low spots first… Like CO2, sulfur hexafluoride is dense enough to allow things to float on it, too. You can fold an aluminum foil boat that sits right on the top of a layer of SF6 as though it were floating on water. It’s pretty cool.

We’ve previously enjoyed this demonstration: Aluminum foil boat floating on a sulfur hexafluoride sea.

Plus, watch these excellent science demonstration videos next:
• Demonstrations of the Coanda Effect
Use a 9-volt battery to break water into its elemental components
• What happens to balloon animals in liquid nitrogen?
The Hidden Complexities of the Simple Match

Bonus: Homemade demonstrations by science teacher Bruce Yeany and the Royal Institution’s ExpeRimental DIY science video series.

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Rion Nakaya