Lemons and Limes

Lemons and Limes

If you put lemons and limes in water, lemons will float and limes will sink.

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If you're someone who typically infuses their water with fruit, you might have noticed that most of the fruit in your glass floats to the top, making a colourful, and delightful, combination. One of our staffers noticed that the lemon slices in her infused water floated to the top, while the lime slices sank. Shouldn't both of the fruits float to the top of the glass? Looking for the quickest explanation as to why this was happening, we conducted our own experiment and asked resident RD Sarah Downs to weigh in on this phenomenon.

To test out our experiment, we ran to the local grocery store and picked up limes and lemons. We tested our fruit three different ways – whole, peeled and sliced. Each time, we noticed that the lemons floated to the top of the bowl while the limes stayed relatively close to the middle/bottom of the bowl. When we peeled and sliced the fruit, the separation just continued to grow.

What we found strangest, however, was that when we peeled the fruit the limes only continued to sink deeper in the bowl while the lemons began to sink a little bit further into the bowl, but remained close to the top. The phenomenon continued when the fruit separated further after they were sliced. We assumed this happened because the fruit was sliced, therefore making the individual pieces lighter.

Based on our observations, we wanted to know the science behind why this was happening. Why, based on our observations, were the larger fruits floating to the top while the smaller fruits were sinking to the bottom? Does it have something to do with the acidity of the fruit? The weight of the peel? Or just the overall mass? We asked Sarah Downs, RD, for an explanation.

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