Demo A Day IV

Dean Campbell uses demonstrations and props to illustrate concepts while teaching his collegiate Materials Chemistry course. Many of the examples described are also suitable for use in high school and collegiate General Chemistry courses. 

Unit Cells and Layer Sequences using Dimpled Packaging

Regularly dimpled trays such as those used in food packaging can be used to represent layers of atoms in solid structures. For example, the square array of dimples in transparent plastic mini quiche trays can be used to depict layers within cubic or tetragonal unit cells. Multiple solid structures and ways to represent those structures are described. 

Algae Connections to Chemistry Classrooms

This timely post is a perfect fit for the theme of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week 2023! Algae is a rich topic with many possible connections to the chemistry classroom. Algae needs to take in light, carbon dioxide, and various simple nutrients and, though it can sometimes get out of control, can produce oxygen, diatomaceous earth, and other products. It can even fluoresce pink! 

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.

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.