How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Lab Activity

How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Experiment

Free Earth and Space Science Worksheets

Cloud in a Bottle Experiment Background Information:

Cloud formation is a visually stunning reminder of the complex energy systems at work in the atmosphere. Understanding cloud formation first requires us to remember that air, though primarily composed of nitrogen and oxygen, is also made up of water vapor. The main energy input in this atmospheric system is the sun, wherein the incoming solar radiation heats the Earth’s surface and the surface warms the atmosphere from below. Similarly, the Earth’s surface also heats liquid water until it evaporates and becomes water vapor in the air.  The warm, low-density air rising away from Earth’s surface is carrying water vapor up with it. As it travels away from Earth’s surface, lower atmospheric pressure and distance from its heat source causes that air to cool. Eventually, the air temperature is cold enough that water can no longer stay in the air as vapor, so it condenses to form tiny water droplets. Collections of these tiny water droplets are what we know as clouds.

How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle

Familiarizing with how clouds form is essential in understanding weather.  This laboratory activity allows you to explore and demonstrate how clouds are formed in a contained place like a plastic bottle.

Cloud in a Bottle Learning Objectives:

At the end of this laboratory activity, students are expected to:

  • demonstrate how clouds form in a bottle.
  • explain how pressure is related to cloud formation.

How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Laboratory Proper:

Before you start the lab play this video by Steve Spangler for your students or watch it yourself explain the different methods he covers in the video with them. He goes into great detail on a few different ways you can conduct this experiment and which one you choose depends on your budget, resources, and number of students. All of the different methods will get the point across. However, there is one that makes the best cloud by far!

Below is the cheapest method of creating the cloud in a bottle. It also will be the loudest and most fun for the kids because they will be squeezing the water bottles.

Cloud in a Bottle Experiment Materials List (For each group of 4 students)

  • 1 empty 1-Liter plastic soda bottle with cap (remove the label)
  • black construction paper
  • water
  • matches

Safety Alert! Do not play with the matches throughout the duration of this experiment.

Cloud in a Bottle Lab Experiment Procedure:

  1. Wrap black construction paper around vertical half of the soda bottle. (This makes it easier to see the cloud with a dark background.)
    Step 1 - Cloud in a Bottle
  2. Run the soda bottle under the sink and put in just enough water (approximately 1 tablespoon) to cover up the ridges at the bottom. Take note: not much water is needed.
    Step 2 - How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Experiment
  3. Light a match and drop into the soda bottle and into water.
    Step 3 - Cloud in a Bottle - Light a Match
  4. Quickly put the cap back onto the bottle so that the smoke does not escape.
    Step 4 - Cloud in a Bottle - Put Cap Back on Bottle
  5. Squeeze the soda bottle and release, repeating several times. Observe what happens inside the bottle.
    Step 5 - Cloud in a Bottle - Apply Pressure
    Step 6 - Cloud in a Bottle - Release Pressure

Cloud in a Bottle Experiment with No Matches

Here is another version of this experiment where your students will not have to use a match. Instead they will use rubbing alcohol. This version of the cloud in a bottle lab activity is cool in its own unique way because the students can make the cloud appear and disappear just by twisting and untwisting the bottle.

How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Post-Lab Questions:

  1. Describe what you have observed in the bottle.
  2. Why was the smoke needed for the cloud to form?
  3. What happens to the cloud whenever you squeeze and release the bottle?
  4. Why did you need to squeeze and release the bottle for the cloud to form?
  5. Why did the cloud disappear when you squeezed the bottle again?
  6. How is pressure related to cloud formation?

Here are the Files Downloadable Files for the Make Your Own Volcano Activity

Here is your Free Content on Cloud Formations

Cloud Formations - PDFs

Cloud Formation Worksheets - Word Docs & PowerPoints

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How to Make a Cloud in a Bottle Science Experiment

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