Consumer Chemistry

On the Surface: Mini-Activities Exploring Surface Phenomena

In this Activity, students investigate surface tension and surfactants. They count the number of drops they can place on a penny, attempt to make a "square" of drops, and create bubbles using differently-shaped wands. These mini-activities could be used to introduce surface tension and surface area when discussing properties of liquids and gases.

New Paper from Newspaper

In this Activity, students examine a piece of newsprint and recycle the paper to make a new sheet of paper that can be compared to other types of paper. They then use this experience, and information from Internet sites, to create a paper work of art. The Activity could be used as a cross-curricular topic in an art class.

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.