Fun with Chemistry

The first 3 blogs have been about a lot of academic stuff – basic forms of matter, the Scientific Method, and some history. But now we can turn to actually doing some chemistry things because I know that most of you don’t want to sit around and read all day. We’ll go through a couple of easy experiments, but first there’s something that I can’t say enough about.

 

Safety.

I’ll make this quick so we can move on to the experiments, but safety is the number one priority in the Chemistry lab or anywhere you are going to be doing lab experiments. You should at least have a pair of goggles and some type of vinyl covering for your hands to prevent accidental spills or handling dangerous chemicals. The next blog will cover this topic in more detail.

Now on to the fun stuff.

 

Burning money.

We don’t need CGI to make our money appear to burn. All it takes is some common household items, and of course, following the experimental procedures. I highly recommend using low value bills – $1 – just in case something goes wrong.

Get together the following items:

tap water

alcohol (the non-drinking kind)

table salt

a pair of tweezers

a bowl

 

Here is the procedure.

Mix the water and alcohol in a 1:1 ratio. This means equal amounts of each in a bowl. Add just a pinch of salt to the mixture, then stir the contents thoroughly.

Next, take your $1 bill and soak the money in the bowl. Be sure not to soak the bill too long. If the bill starts to curl up you know it has been too long. If this happens, take it out, get another bill, and let the other one dry out.

You can now set the bill on fire, holding it with the tweezers. What you should see is the bill burning for a very short period of time.

Why does this work? The alcohol will burn off the bill before the flame is able to set the money on fire. You can do the same experiment on many things made of paper: pages of books or old printouts. Just avoid trying it on anything valuable, such as legal documents or family records.

 

Diet Coke and Mentos

You most likely have heard of or seen this experiment, and some of you may even have done it. But here I’ll show you a few add-ons you can do to make the experiment even more interesting and give you a better sense of what actual experimenting is like.

Get a measuring stick to measure the height of the eruptions.

Use different size openings for the container. For example, you can cut part of the top off of the Diet Coke bottle or even use PVC pipe to place inside the bottle and narrow the size of the opening.

Use a timer on your smartphone or a watch and time how long the eruptions last.

You can still have the same fun but will also begin to learn to ask questions about why things are the way they are. This follows the Scientific Method approach and is something you can take with you to class when you are doing laboratory experiments.