Cool chemistry experiments raise student interest in science and boost enthusiasm for learning. They are also a lot of fun! Here are some spectacular demonstrations and experiments to try.
Elephant toothpaste is one chemistry experiment you shouldn’t miss. The experiment produces heaps of foam, which you can color or even form into shapes by using special containers. The classic version is a reaction between sodium or potassium iodide and peroxide. There is also a kid-friendly version that is safe for children (and adults) to touch.
Color Change Chemiluminescence
Most likely, you know about chemiluminescence from glow sticks, but there are more dramatic reactions you can try. For example, there is a cool chemistry experiment where you mix together chemicals, add peroxide, and the solution glows red and then glows blue. This experiment illustrates an exothermic reaction and a decomposition reaction.
Colored Fire Cool Chemistry Experiment
Making colored fire certainly qualifies as a cool chemistry experiment. Just choose the chemical for the color you want. Some of the chemicals are appropriate for making colored fire spray bottles, too. In addition to looking awesome, colored fire demonstrates the emission spectra of ions.
Copper and Nitric Acid Chemistry Experiment
The copper and nitric acid experiment is as easy as it gets, but it produces dramatic results that illustrate the metal activity series and coordination complexes. All you do is drop a piece of copper into nitric acid. The liquid changes from clear to blue-green and the reaction releases bubbles of reddish-brown vapor. Eventually, the liquid changes color to brown.
Sodium in Water Reaction
Sodium and other alkali metals react vigorously with water. The reaction become more vigorous as you move down the periodic table, so mixing sodium and water is the safest version of this chemistry experiment. You only use a tiny bit of the metal, yet it burns brightly and gives of sparks and flames. Sodium burns with a yellow flame, but other metals have their own characteristic colors. For example, potassium in water has a purple flame and rubidium in water has a red flame.
Chemical Traffic Light
The chemical traffic light is one of many color change chemistry demonstrations. It is a redox reaction where a solution changes red, green, and amber, like a traffic light. Temperature affects the rate of the color change, so it also illustrates principles of kinetics.
The thermite reaction is one of the more dramatic chemistry experiments. All you do is mix a metal and a metal oxide and ignite it. But, this is no ordinary fire. The reaction is very bright and extremely hot. It is the burning of metal, so it serves as an example of oxidation, combustion, and exothermic reactions.
Dancy Gummy Bear
The dancing gummy bear is a chemistry experiment featuring a gummy bear candy “dancing” in purple flames. But, you can use any candy. A related experiment involves dropping a bit of charcoal into a tube of molten potassium nitrate, making the charcoal dance. The project illustrates combustion, oxidation, exothermic reactions, and the flame test for potassium.
Sugar and Sulfuric Acid Cool Reaction
The sugar and sulfuric acid reaction has another name: the carbon snake. This is a dehydration reaction and decomposition reaction that breaks sugar molecules into elemental carbon, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and water. The result is a steaming column of black carbon rising from its container. The experiment smells of burning caramel and rotten eggs.
Flower Shop Reaction
The flower shop or odor of violets reaction does not look as cool as some of the other reactions on this list, but it definitely smells the best. The simple reaction involves mixing two common chemicals and applying heat, releasing a chemical that smells like violets. This experiment demonstrates a rearrangement reaction. Another cool effect is the way the molecule affects the sense of smell such that the fragrance never becomes overpowering or fades.
- Shakhashiri, Bassam Z. (1983). Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry (1st ed.). University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN: 978-0299088903.
- Summerlin, Lee R.; Borgford, Christie L., Ealy, Julie B. (1988). Chemical Demonstrations: A Sourcebook for Teachers Volume 2 (2nd ed.). American Chemical Society. ISBN: 978-0841215351.