Rainbow Wand Chemistry Demonstration


A rainbow wand works by varying the pH of a solution from one end of a tube to the other. A pH indicator provides the color

A rainbow wand works by varying the pH of a solution from one end of a tube to the other. A pH indicator provides the color change. (Derek Gavey)

An acid-base rainbow wand is an easy and colorful chemistry demonstration which illustrates the range of colors available for a pH indicator solution. Take a long glass tube and fill it with Universal Indicator solution. Add a few drops of 0.02M HCl to one end of the tube and seal it with a stopper. Add a couple of drops of 0.02M NaOH to the other end of the tube and seal it. The Universal Indicator will respond to the pH gradient by providing you with a lovely rainbow.

You can invert the tube a few times to speed things up.

Easy Rainbow Wand Home Chemistry Project

You can get a similar result using home chemistry. Fill a clear straw with red cabbage juice. Add a little lemon juice or vinegar to one end of the straw (acidic ingredient). Add a few drops of baking soda or laundry detergent solution to the other end of the straw (basic ingredient).

Simple Variation for a Rainbow Test Tube

A variation on the project is to mix in a pH indicator with gelatin or agar. After the gel sets, apply chemicals with different pH values to opposite sides of the mixture (you can use a pipette or syringe to deliver solution to the bottom of a test tube). Another way to set up the demonstration is to use sodium polyacrylate gel beads (water beads). Either the gel or the beads will slow the progression of the pH change, so you don’t need to use a super-long tube to get a nice rainbow effect.

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