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Sparking a Love of Chemistry

On December 5, 2014, chemistry lecturers Nosheen Gothard and Ben Zion and a team of undergraduate students presented chemistry demonstrations for an audience of IIT faculty and students in the Life Sciences auditorium. A long tradition in chemistry departments, these shows can be sensational, with oozing liquids and whooshing explosions, but also serve an educational purpose. The demonstrations were based on experiments from the current semester’s CHEM 122/124 curriculum and incendiary chemistry in general, which involves exploding methane, color flames, and dust fire. Demonstrations spanned topics such as excited states, combustion, wavelengths of light, thermal conduction, energy transformations, dehydration, and precipitation.

  • Hot water and liquid nitrogen are mixed to show a phase change phenomenon, producing a white cloud that hisses out of the tea kettle.
    Hot water and liquid nitrogen are mixed to show a phase change phenomenon, producing a white cloud that hisses out of the tea kettle.
  • Three aqueous solutions are prepared: 1) Sodium Bisulfite (0.10 M) and Starch (0.2%); 2) Mercury (II) Chloride (0.01 M); and 3) Potassium Iodate (0.05 M) to produce color complexes from the chemical reactions.
    Three aqueous solutions are prepared: 1) Sodium Bisulfite (0.10 M) and Starch (0.2%); 2) Mercury (II) Chloride (0.01 M); and 3) Potassium Iodate (0.05 M) to produce color complexes from the chemical reactions.
  • A classic chemical volcano is demonstrated from a pile of ammonium dichromate. The reaction begins when lit by a flame, and the ammonium dichromate glows and emits sparks as it decomposes into water, nitrogen and chromium (III) oxide ash.
    A classic chemical volcano is demonstrated from a pile of ammonium dichromate. The reaction begins when lit by a flame, and the ammonium dichromate glows and emits sparks as it decomposes into water, nitrogen and chromium (III) oxide ash.
  • A carbon tower is built by dehydrating sugar in acid. Concentrated sulfuric acid is added to sugar, and the carbon tower forms as sugar molecules dehydrate and water escapes as steam.
    A carbon tower is built by dehydrating sugar in acid. Concentrated sulfuric acid is added to sugar, and the carbon tower forms as sugar molecules dehydrate and water escapes as steam.
  • Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
    Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
  • Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
    Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
  • Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
    Boiling water poured onto liquid nitrogen.
  • Hydrogen balloons are lit by a flame, creating loud explosions for the grand finale!
    Hydrogen balloons are lit by a flame, creating loud explosions for the grand finale!
  • Hydrogen balloons are lit by a flame, creating loud explosions for the grand finale!
    Hydrogen balloons are lit by a flame, creating loud explosions for the grand finale!