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Science Rocks!


Floating Paper Clips

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Sent in by:
Katherine of Edmonton, AB, Canada

Fast dips sink clips! Can you make a paper clip float?
Materials

Materials Needed


  • bowl of water
  • paper towels
  • paper clips

Instructions

Instructions


  1. Drop a paper clip in a cup of water. What happens?
  2. Tear off a piece of paper towel that is slightly larger than the paper clip.
  3. Place the piece of paper towel on top of the water.
  4. Gently place another paper clip on the piece of paper towel. Wait a few seconds. Now what happens?


If you drop a paper clip in water, the paper clip sinks. But if you put the paper clip on a piece of paper towel, the paper towel sinks and the paper clip floats. This is because water particles are attracted to each other in all directions, making them "stick" together. However, because there are no water particles above them, the water particles at the surface "stick" only to particles next to and below them. This makes the surface act as if it had a thin "skin". This is called surface tension. The paper towel helps you to lower the paper clip onto the surface gently without breaking the surface tension. If you're very careful, you can float the paper clip on the water without using the paper towel.


Now it's time for you to experiment. What happens if you add a drop of liquid soap to the water while the paper clip is floating? Or, what happens if you put the paper clip in another liquid, like vegetable oil or soda water? Share your thoughts with other ZOOMers by sending them to ZOOM through our special feedback area. We'll post a whole bunch of them right here every week!

Some of your Results

Jittu, age 13 of WA wrote:
I did it it was awesome. I just followed the instructions properly. And it worked out.

Damon, age 13 of Sydney wrote:
It is awesome. I loved it!

Kimberlyz, age 11 of Harvey wrote:
the paper clips floated on the paper towels and this is a good project

Leigh, age 9 of Bedford Hills, NY wrote:
when I put the soap water the bowl the paper clip fell to the bottom

Gillian, age 9 of Plano, TX wrote:
the paperclip on the papertowel sank SO IT DID NOT WORK

Amber, age 7 of Atlanta, GA wrote:
The paper clip sank to the bottom first. After adding the paper towel to the water and putting the paper clip on top of it, the paper clip floated. Then when I added the drop of soap, the paper towel and paper clip sank to the bottom. I did this experiment with mom and my 5 yr. old brother. Fun!!

Cela, age 11 of Palmerston North, NZ wrote:
We had to experiment a few time. Then we had to gently push the paper towel down into the water and the paper clip did float. Be careful not to bump the paper clip. The clip has been floating for quite a while... and still is!!

Brianna, age 8 of Bath, MI wrote:
It took me a few times to make it work, but I did! I learned that after placing the paper towel on top of the water I couldn't let me fingernails touch the surface of the water. If my nail just touched the water the paper clip sank! One time when I was pumping in the soap it took us about 15 squirts to make the paper clip sink. When almost the entire opening of the cup was full of soap the paper clip sank. It took a lot of soap that time.

Mei-Li, age 9 of Pasadena, CA wrote:
When I put the paper clip on the water without the paper towel, the paper clip sank. Then I put the paper towel on the water then the paper clip. After a few seconds, the paper towel sank but the paper clip stayed up.

Daniel, age 9 of Pasadena, CA wrote:
When I put the paper towel on the water then I put the paper clip then the paper towel just sank to the bottom of the cup, and I was very suprised.

Anja, age 8 of Altadena, CA wrote:
The paper clip by itself sank and if you put the paper clip on the paper towel it floated. If the towel sank the paper clip would be on the water.

Caroline, age 9 of Pasadena wrote:
when I dropped the paper clip in the water it sunk to the bottom of the cup of water. But when I put the paper towel in the water and then put the paper clip on it it stade at the top. after a while the paper towel sunk and the paper clip stade at the top.

Ian, age 9 of Altadena, CA wrote:
When I dropped the paper clip in water it sank to the bottom. When I put the paper clip on a paper towel on water it floated. As the paper towel absorbed the water, it sank to the bottom and the paper clip remained floating.

Danny, age 7 of Upper Darby, PA wrote:
I was surprised to see the paper clip really floating on the surface of the water. The paper sank but the paper clip did not sink. My mom and I talked about what made the paper clip float.

Mason, age 8 of Houma, LA wrote:
it holded 3 intil it sank.

ZOOM Fan, age 11 of Rayong, Thailand wrote:
When I did the experiment in class with some of my friends, the results revealed were: it didn't float!! (remember; this was only our first trial...and maybe because I was a bit heavy handed.) but finally we got the paper-clip to float, then we went to the next stage of dropping a drop of soapy water into the beaker. It was quite shocking when this happened because all our hard work of trying to "desperately" make the paper-clip float was then ruined and destroyed by just one weenie drop of soapy water!! (Absolutely unbelievable!!!) Anyway, It was great fun and I did some extra research about why that happened too... very interesting.

Kyle, age 10 of WI wrote:
it floated due to surface tension. Also because of the air pockets that build up inside the paper clip.

Olivia, age 11 of Yankton, SD wrote:
my friend did this project and it really worked good! the paper clip stayed floating for two days! everybody liked it.

Jackie, age 11 of Yankton, SD wrote:
It worked right away. if you want to do a Floating Paper Clips for a school project you will sure to get an A+.

Samantha, age 10 of Visalia, CA wrote:
The surface tension of the water, i. e., how the water molecules attract each other, holds up the paper clip. However, soap breaks down the surface tension and in this case, the water can no longer hold up the paper clip. also think it is because the soap water is too heavy for the paper clips. And the medal paper clips sink down to the bottom of the plate and don't float to the top because the surface tension can't hold up the soap.

Aljon, age 15 of Phillipines wrote:
good it is true, now I know what is surface tension. thank you

Bridget, age 13 of Scranton, PA wrote:
it worked and it was AMAZING

Samantha, age 10 of Visalia, CA wrote:
I tried it and it worked then add a surtain type of soap and wala it sinks the surtain type of soap is the soap you wash your hands with can not be AROBONE!

Samantha, age 10 of Visalia, CA wrote:
I did it but what happened? I think it is because the soap water is too heavy for the paper clips. And, the medal paper clips sink down to the bottom of the plate and donít float to the top because the surface tension can't hold up the soap. I am doing a sceince fair project on "Why do paper clips float on water and not soap water?"

ZOOM Fan, age 11 of Houston, TX wrote:
wow it worked!!! this was a really cool project!

Terry, age 12 of Chicago, IL wrote:
The paper clip float until the water moved

Goege of FL wrote:
first we put a piece of paper towel and then a paper clip we figgerd out that the more weight under the towell like vinager held it up better.

Taylor, age 11 of Jonesboro, GA wrote:
The paper clip floated to the bottom of the glass

Ashley, age 11 of Geneva, FL wrote:
i put the first one in and it sank. then I put the paper towel in and THEN put the second one on top and it flouted after the paper towel sank. But DONT USE THE BIG PAPER CLIPS OR BOTH OF THEM SINK! I TRYED IT!

Andrew, age 9 of Wahiwa, Hawai'i wrote:
the clip sank with the paper towel


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