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Explore Emulsions

These activities will allow students to explore how emulsions form, what type of emulsions can be formed, and how they can be applied in our daily lives.

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Full Tinkering with Lotions

Tinkering with Lotions

Full Tinkering with Lotions


Here we are focusing on an extremely popular emulsion type (lotions) where water droplets are dispersed in a continuous oil phase. Lotions are used to moisturize, and can be used as carriers to deliver important molecules into the body through our largest organ — skin. 

You can use any number of different oils to make lotion, even ones in your kitchen! You can also change the consistency and texture of the lotion by playing around with the amount of water you use in the lotion recipe. But, because water and oil do not easily mix, we have to add a special bridging molecule to make the water and oil “get along.” This bridging compound, the emulsifier, keeps water and oil mixed together.



  • Oils (here we will use a mix)
  • Beewax (optional in Recipe B)
  • Emulsifying Wax
  • Stearic Acid
  • Water
  • Glycerin
  • Essential oils of your choosing to “flavor” the moisturizer


  • Container for mixing
  • utensils for scraping
  • thermometer
  • kitchen scale
  • measuring cups
  • stick blender
  • kettle
  • double boiler or water bath
  • containers for moisturizer
  • labels and pens
  • notebook for record keeping
Full Tinkering with Lotions
Full Classify Simple Emulsions

Classify Simple Emulsions

Full Classify Simple Emulsions


One way to classify emulsions is by identifying the continuous and dispersed phase of the emulsion. Continuous phase is the liquid in which another liquid is dispersed. In other words, it is the dominant phase in the emulsion. Dispersed phase is the opposite. It is the liquid that is dispersed within the continuous phase and which therefore occupies a relatively small space in the emulsion compared to the continuous phase.

Based on this method of classification there are three major types of emulsions: O/W(Oil in Water), W/O(Water in Oil), and bicontinuous (where both water and oil have equal share in the emulsion). In this experiment, we will create different emulsions and observe what physical characteristics they exhibit and whether or not there is a more stable way to form an emulsion, that is, so that the emulsion stays emulsified for a long time without separating. After that, we will plot the characteristics on the phase diagram to estimate what ratios of water,oil, and surfactant will create the most stable emulsion.



  • Scale 
  • A stick to scrape off residue
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Vortex 
  • Rubber band
  • Labels and pens


  • Capped plastic or glass tubes
  • Weigh boats



Viscosity Test Paper (consistometer paper), emulsion observation table, and emulsion phase diagrams are provided in the download section on the right.

Full Classify Simple Emulsions
Full A Viscosity Test to Characterize Emulsions

A Viscosity Test to Characterize Emulsions

Full A Viscosity Test to Characterize Emulsions



  • Emulsions that you want to test


  • Pipette stand/clear smooth surface
  • consistometer paper (found in Downloads)
  • pipette
  • pen
  • calculator
Full A Viscosity Test to Characterize Emulsions

Created by

Disan Davis Disan Davis avatar

Disan is a scientist and educator striving to share her curiosity and love of science with others
RockEDU Program Manager
The Rockefeller University

Yemi Shin Yemi Shin avatar

Yemi is a sophomore at Carleton College. She is passionate about science, fashion, and all things entertaining.

Jeanne Garbarino Jeanne Garbarino avatar

Jeanne was once rescued by the FDNY after getting her head stuck in a fence. She then grew up to become a biochemist.
Director of RockEDU Science Outreach
The Rockefeller University
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