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Dry Ice for Science Experiments – Everything You Need to Know

Using dry ice for science experiments is one way to WOW your students!

It makes a show-stopping Halloween science activity, an amazing introduction to the phenomena of sublimation, and takes observations of matter to a whole new level!

Each year, I set up dry ice sublimation stations for Halloween and it’s always an unbelievable hit!

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Here are some of the questions that I get asked most frequently.

How is dry ice sold?

Dry ice can be sold in blocks or pellets. For science experiments in the classroom, I prefer to purchase the pellets. They’re “pre-cut” and ready to go!

A pellet is a cylindrical shape, that is about a half-inch in diameter. The lengths of the pellets vary.

Dry ice slab vs pellets

Pellets can be easier to handle for activities, which I love! But keep in mind that the pellets tend to “disappear” faster than the slab if you don’t use it quickly enough.

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A dry ice pellet

Where can you buy dry ice?

Call ahead to verify, but most Kroger. Walmart and Costco stores sell dry ice.

I got hooked on dry ice when the cookie dough from our school fundraiser arrived packed in dry ice. Our science department fights over every shipment – it’s free fun!

Is dry ice for science experiments dangerous?

Dry ice can pose safety risks if safety precautions are not taken.

Dry ice is very cold! It’s 109.3 degrees below zero to be exact. For that reason, you should not touch it with your bare hands. This can cause frostbite for exposed skin that touches it.

Dry ice that is placed in a sealed container can build up pressure. The expanding gases can cause the sealed container to “explode”. This can be dangerous, especially if the dry ice was placed in a glass container.

What are some safety precautions for dry ice science experiments?

  • Use tongs to handle dry ice.
  • Do NOT hold the dry ice in your hand for a long period of time.  It will not hurt you to touch it for a second or two, but if you try to hold it, it can freeze your skin and feel like a burn. 
  • Never put dry ice into a closed glass container. 
  • Do NOT put dry ice into your mouth. 
  • Use appropriate eyewear.
dry-ice-experiments

How much does dry ice cost?

At the time of publishing, our supplier sells dry ice for $3.30 per pound. As more is purchased, the price drops. This may vary in the area you live.

One pounds of dry ice pellets is approximately “a handful” of dry ice.

How do you store dry ice?

  • It’s all in the planning! Since dry ice “melts” over time, it’s best to get it as close as you can to when you will be using it.
  • Store the dry ice in an insulated cooler. Avoid a locking lid. A Styrofoam cooler is a great option because the lid allows the build up of pressure to release.
  • Be sure to keep the lid on until you need to remove pieces for the activity.
  • If there is space in the cooler, you may want to pack it with newspapers to insulate it and help it last longer.
  • If possible, t’s best to call ahead of time and pick it up the morning you are using it.

What is your favorite science experiment for dry ice?

All of them! Seriously! I love to demo dry ice for my students and then let them explore dry ice in stations!

I’ve developed a set of six sublimation stations for students to explore. Everything you need is in this time-saving, high-interest activity!

All you have to do is purchase the ice, set up the lab, and let your students investigate!

In this resource you will find:

  • Dry Ice Background Information
  • Materials list (household items)
  • Dry Ice Demo Directions
  • Explanation of each phenomena for teachers
  • 6 directed stations
  • 1 design your own experiment station
  • Student handout
  • Black and white version for ease of printing

TEACHERS LIKE YOU SAID….

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This was perfect for my students for a fun lab with dry ice. They loved it and the materials were simple things that I had already to go along with the dry ice. Successful, memorable lab!
Jill K.
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This was a great way to channel the fun of dry ice and make it manageable in the classroom. It was lovely to be able to make the copies and go! Loved that I already had most of the supplies.
Ana O.

Need more dry ice inspiration for your classroom?

Check out this post – Dry Ice Experiments Your Students Will Love!

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