Consumer Chemistry

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.

I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for Phenolics

In this Activity, students use a colorimetric visualization test to screen grape juice for phenolic content. Students use the test to examine differences in phenolic content of juices prepared with different processing methods. Most of the materials are readily available at the supermarket.

Color My Nanoworld

This Activity introduces students to the unique properties of nanoscale materials through exploration of size-dependent optical properties of gold nanoparticles. Students first prepare a solution of gold nanoparticles. They then investigate the solution’s use as an electrolyte sensor by adding a non-electrolyte and a strong electrolyte, and observing any resulting color changes.