How to use air pressure to crush cans

This experiment is a fun one but may require some adult supervision since we’ll be dealing with hot surfaces.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An empty aluminum can filled with about 3 oz. of water
  • A pair of tongs, preferably metal grilling tongs
  • A clear container filled with ice-water
  • A stove burner
  • Gloves


You’ll start by putting the aluminum can (filled with 3 oz. of water) onto the stove burner. Bring the water to a rolling boil. After the water has been boiling for a few minutes, and you can see steam coming out of the can, it’s time to tip the can over. 

Have the ice water container nearby. 

Wearing gloves, use the metal tongs to firmly grasp the can.

Turn the can upside-down into the ice water, so the mouth is completely submerged. When the can is turned upside-down into the water, it should implode after a few seconds. 

Here’s why:

When you increase the temperature inside the can, you’re also increasing the pressure. The liquid water in the can is transitioning to water vapor.

That’s the steam you see rising as the water begins to boil.

By turning it over into the ice water, you’re quickly dropping the temperature in the can. This causes the water inside the can to go from the gas phase, back to the liquid phase. When this happens, the pressure drops inside the can

By submerging the mouth of the can, you’ve created a vacuum and no air can flow back in. The only way for the pressure inside the can equalize with the pressure outside of the can, is for the can to crumble.


Nature is always trying to maintain equilibrium.

This experiment is a fun way to illustrate that.