first-year undergraduate

Hatching Ideas to use Egg Cartons to Represent Electron Arrangements

Egg cartons and small objects such as milk jug caps or plastic eggs can be used to illustrate chemical concepts. The egg cartons can be cut into trays to represent atoms or to represent energy levels associated with atomic orbitals. The plastic caps or eggs distributed among the dimples of the trays can be used to represent electrons or pairs of electrons.

Surprising Shrinking Styrofoam Stick: Using the Gas Laws to Get a Square Peg into a Round Hole

Polystyrene foam sticks with a square or rectangular profile will not fit into a round target hole (e.g., the opening of a soda bottle) at room temperature. However, they do contract sufficiently in contact with liquid nitrogen to fit into the hole and produce a simple demonstration of Charles’s Law. Many other polymer foams do not shrink under these conditions, but still provide opportunities to discuss and explore their structure and chemistry.

The Pumpkinator

This Pumpkinator is a fantastic orange-to-blue-to-orange chemical reaction that will make a great addition to your Halloween-themed chemistry demonstrations.

A Visit to Natural Fiber Welding: Demonstrating Green Chemistry in Action

The theme to the 2022 National Chemistry Week, observed October 16-22, is “Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics”. A visit to Natural Fiber Welding, Inc. in Peoria, IL, revealed how that company is using ionic liquids to solvent weld cellulose fibers together to produce more durable yarn which can then be made into more durable fabric. The production method and “greenness” of the product is discussed, from the cellulose itself to the recycling of the solution used in the welding process. Macroscopic demonstrations of the fiber solvent welding process are also described. 

Using My Marbles: Connecting Surface Area and Calorimetry with Temperature Curves and Thermochromic Cups

The importance of surface area can be illustrated by adding spherical solids at known sizes and temperature to other substances at different temperatures and then monitoring the rates of temperature changes of the system over time. Larger spheres (with less surface area per sample) exchanged heat with water more slowly than smaller spheres, and less thermally conductive glass spheres exchanged heat with water more slowly than iron spheres. Additional, more colorful demonstrations are described in which small glass spheres cool thermochromic plastic cups more quickly than larger glass spheres.