Consumer Chemistry

How Many Colors in Your Computer? Discovering the Rules for Making Colors

In this Activity, students investigate the colors displayed on a computer monitor with a magnifying glass. They then mix colors first using light, then using paints or crayons. This Activity could be used in discussions of solid state chemistry when LEDs, phosphors, or liquid crystals are discussed.

LEDs Are Diodes

In this Activity, students compare incandescent bulbs and LEDs powered by dc and ac voltage sources. They use circuits made from cut-up holiday light strands, with some of the incandescent bulbs replaced with LEDs. The diode nature of LEDs is demonstrated, as well as the energy associated with different wavelengths of light.

What's Gluep? Characterizing a Cross-Linked Polymer

In this Activity, students make a cross-linked polymer called "gluep" using white glue and borax solution. They then investigate its properties, and "un-gluep" and "re-gluep" it using vinegar and baking soda. This Activity can be used in discussions of polymers or properties of liquids and solids. It demonstrates the composition and alternative use of a common household product.

Tick Tock, a Vitamin C Clock

In this Activity, students make a chemical clock using chemicals found in the supermarket: vitamin C tablets, tincture of iodine (2%), hydrogen peroxide (3%), and liquid laundry starch. They investigate what happens to the speed of the clock when the reactant solutions are made more or less dilute.

CD Light: An Introduction to Spectroscopy

In this Activity, students use a CD to build a simple spectroscope. They use it to investigate how different colors of light interact with colored matter. This qualitative Activity could be used as a general introduction to spectroscopy and the concepts of complementary colors and absorbance.

An After-Dinner Trick

In this Activity, students investigate a classic chemistry demonstration that uses the phenomenon of freezing-point depression to lift an ice cube out of a glass of water with a thread. They first test how adding salt, pepper, cream, and sugar to cold water affects the temperature.

Liver and Onions: DNA Extraction from Animal and Plant Tissues

In this Activity, students extract DNA from liver and onion cells, and precipitate the DNA. The Activity fits well with a discussion of nucleic acids, hydrogen bonding, genetic coding, and heredity. DNA extraction can also be used in conjunction with a discussion of polymers and their properties.

Meltdown Showdown! Which Deicer Works Best?

In this Activity, students test two chemical deicers, rock salt (sodium chloride) and calcium chloride, to determine which melts ice better and whether it is worth the extra cost to buy a more expensive deicer. They perform three tests comparing the two deicers, predict which will be more effective at melting through a thin disk of ice, and then test their prediction.

The Effects of Temperature on Lightsticks

In this Activity, students observe and compare the behavior of three lightsticks that are exposed to three different temperature ranges (cold, room temperature, and hot). The Activity could be used early in the school year to give students practice in making detailed observations and devising reasonable explanations for those observations. It illustrates the use of qualitative vs.

Brushing Up on Chemistry

In this Activity, students make their own toothpaste and use various tests to compare its properties with those of commercial toothpaste. This includes testing its ability to remove stains from the dyed shells of hard-boiled eggs. The Activity allows students to discover more about a cleaning product they use every day.