Walking water

Walking water

Follow FizzicsEd 150 Science Experiments:

  • Two paper towels
  • Water
  • Food colouring- ideally two different colours
  • Three Cups
3 plastic cups, yellow and blue food colouring, paper and water
1 Strips of paper

Fold the two paper towels into two tubes roughly 20cm long.

2 Dark blue and dark yellow coloured water in cups

Fill two cups with water and add food dye to each, ideally of different colours. To get the best effect, use undiluted food colouring or at least very strong! 

3 3 cups arranged in a line. On the left is a yellow cup of water and on the right is a blue cup of water. The center cup is empty. A paper strip is hanging from each of the outside cups into the center cup whilst both touching the coloured water in the outside cups

Place an empty cup between the two full cups. Place one end of a paper tube into one cup filled with coloured water and the other end into the centre empty cup. Repeat this step with the other cup of coloured water and paper towel, so that the cups and paper towels alternate as follows: cup, towel, cup, towel, cup.

4 3 cups of different coloured water with two pieces of paper dangling into the center cup and into the outside cups. The paper is coloured by the food colour dye

Wait for several hours. If you would like to see the process more clearly set up a time-lapse camera to watch over your experiment!

What is happening?

Water has a strange ability called ‘capillary action’ were, due to its stickiness (surface tension, adhesion, and cohesion), it can travel through materials without the assistance of other forces. Because of this, the dyed water travels through the paper towel and into the empty glass. If you had used two different dyes you should have seen the colours mix in the middle glass.

Variables to test

  • Does it make a difference with hot vs. cold water?
  • Try different food colours… what is the result?
  • Try tissue paper, vs. paper towels vs. printing paper

More about variables here

Learn more!

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