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Ice Cream Lab

Ice Cream is simply a tasty way to observe scientific principles. The first concept is a phase change or the movement from one state of matter to another. The three primary states of matter we study are solids, liquids, and gases. Solids are tightly packed atoms that have rigid bonds that do not flow. Solids have a fixed volume and shape. Liquids are bound together, but not as tightly packed and their bonds are more flexible allowing them to flow. Liquids have a fixed volume, but their shape is the same as their container. Gases are loosely packed molecules that flow freely. Gases have an indefinite volume and shape because they take the volume and shape of their container.

The second principle observed in the ice cream lab is the transfer of heat in a system. The two types of heat transfer are endothermic and exothermic reactions. Endothermic reactions remove heat from the surrounding environment into the primary system.

Exothermic reactions remove heat from the primary system and transfer it to the surrounding environment. In either case, the Law of Conservation of Energy is applied. Heat is a form of energy and it is neither created nor destroyed in a reaction, it merely changes form or location.


240 mL milk 45 mL sugar

cups 80 mL ice cream salt

2.5 mL vanilla or chocolate flavoring 50 mL beaker

100 mL graduated cylinder ice

400 mL beaker spoons

3.8 L zipper bag (gallon); freezer quality gloves

0.95 L zipper bag (quart); freezer quality towel

Celsius thermometer



Working with a partner, place a towel over the work area.


Pour 240 mL milk, 45 mL sugar, and 2.5 mL vanilla or chocolate flavoring into the 0.95 L zipper bag. CAREFULLY seal the bag and shake up the mixture thoroughly.

Adapted from UVA Physics Department

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