Consumer Chemistry

A Chemist Celebrates the International Year of Light

 

Happy New Year!  Did you know that 2015 is the International Year of Light (IYL)? IYL is a “global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health1”.  IYL is sponsored by several organizations with interests in science and science education, including the European Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, and the American Institute of Physics.  You can find several lesson plans, videos and other educational resources on the IYL website2. 

Chemistry At the Mall

My local chapter of the American Chemical Society sponsors an annual event at a local mall called “Chemistry at the Mall”. The event is in celebration of National Chemistry Week. This year’s theme is “The Sweet Side of Chemistry – Candy”. I advise an ACS ChemClub and we hosted a table at “Chemistry at the Mall”. Ten student members worked shifts from 11am – 4pm. This was a great way to get involved with my local chapter and meet some other members. My students had a great time providing outreach and introducing young children to chemistry.

Back to School... with Candy

Making plans for back to school? Don’t forget the candy! It doesn’t sound like something a nutritionist would recommend, but what about a chemistry educator?

Trusty or Rusty? Oxidation Rate of Nails

In this Activity, students investigate the process of rusting by studying the oxidation of steel nails in a gel using supermarket chemicals. An indicator makes the presence of Fe3+ produced by the oxidation visible. Factors that accelerate or retard the rate of iron oxidation are studied.

Turning on the Light

In this Activity, students investigate the luminescent properties of common items such as glow-in-the-dark stickers, wintergreen-flavored hard candies, and a chlorophyll solution made from spinach leaves. After making observations, they use a flowchart to categorize the luminescent items as fluorescent, phosphorescent, or triboluminescent.

Where There's Fire There's...

In this Activity, students compare the combustion of different substances such as a glowing wooden toothpick and lit birthday candle in air, oxygen, exhaled breath, and carbon dioxide environments. The oxygen and carbon dioxide are generated from supermarket chemicals. This Activity can be used to explore the chemistry of oxygen and combustion.

Diffusion of Water through a Differentially Permeable Membrane

In this Activity, students investigate the process of osmosis through a differentially-permeable membrane formed by the precipitation of copper(II) hexacyanoferrate(II). This Activity allows students to watch and investigate osmosis, which reinforces the concept of transport in living cells.

Apple Fool! An Introduction to Artificial Flavors

In this Activity, students investigate flavorings by making artificial "cooked apples" from a mixture of crackers, sugar, cream of tartar, and water, as is done for the filling in recipes for Mock Apple Pie. This Activity focuses on consumer chemistry, and can be used to introduce natural and artificial flavors or lab experiments that make esters.