• Laboratory Experiments
 

Laboratory Experiments for Non-Major and General Chemistry Courses

The American Chemical Society has stated: "To learn chemistry, students must directly manipulate chemicals, study their properties and reactions, and use laboratory equipment and modern laboratory instruments." and "This hands-on experience is necessary for students to understand, appreciate, and apply chemical concepts." (ACS Guidelines for Chemistry in Two-Year College Programs, Spring 2009)

Commercial laboratory manuals contain experiments that range from trivial (those dumb measurement labs) to challenging (e.g., applications of thermochemistry to solar energy). Some experiments serve little purpose other than busy work to illustrate a principle and leaves students asking "so, what?". On the other hand, there are a lot of independent experiments developed by individuals and posted on the Internet that are on the cutting edge of today's research (e.g., nanotechnology), apply principles to applications (e.g., build a wind turbine), or explore consumer products (e.g., make a perfume). Don't look for these in commercial manuals. Many school and university teachers tend to be dinosaurs and are reluctant to try something new and are slow to change.

I am a firm believer in integrated lecture-laboratory classes and utilize a range of experiments, some traditional and some non-traditional, in my classes. Some experiments are intended as introductions to course topics, some are used to reinforce concepts taught in class, and some are investigations to accompany course material.. Although I list most experiments on separate course pages for students to download, I am assembling many of those experiments on this page to make them easier to find on my website.

All the following are experiments used, written, or modified, by David A. Katz.

There are additional laboratory experiments that can be found under Pima Chem Courses. Especially look at CHM 121, Chemistry and Society, and CHM 125, Consumer Chemistry

These are PDF files and require Adobe Acrobat Reader

These experiments are copyrighted by David A. Katz. They are not to be reproduced, printed, or distributed without the premission of the author.

Laboratory Safety

Safety in the Academic Laboratory

The Safety Song by the Sounds of Science a group of graduate students and alumni at UC Berkeley. Safety doesn't have to be boring.

Introductory Experiments

Mystery Powders An introduction to investigating properties of substances. Most often used in preparation courses and with non-majors.

An Experiment in Alchemy: Copper to Silver to Gold This is a fun experiment to teach students how to identify samples, use a balance, a hotplate, a Bunsen burner, and some lab techniques.

Economics of a Chemical Product A techniques experiment that includes a lesson on economics

Ink Analysis: An Experiment in Paper Chromatography An introduction to paper chromatography based on a forensics experiment

Chromatography: The Extraction and Identification of Artificial Colors From Foods A newer modification of a former FDA procedure to identify food colors

The Characterization of an Unknown Substance This experiment is written as a Sherlock Holmes mystery

Identification of a Substance by Physical Properties This experiment uses density, solubility and boiling point to identify a substance

Introductory Organic Chemistry

Esters: An Introduction to Organic Chemistry Reactions This is a very rough preparation of some organic esters

Esters: A Microscale Introduction to Organic Chemistry Reactions This is a microscale preparation of some relatively pure organic esters

Calorimetry

Energy of a Peanut: Determining the Caloric Content of Selected Foods

Nuclear Chemistry

Nuclear Chemistry Experiments

Determination of the Half-Life of Potassium-40

Atomic Spectra and Atomic Structure

Build a Spectroscope How does one identify elements? For homework search out element spectra in your environment.

Chemical Compounds

Empirical Formula of a Compound

Hydrates

Recycling a Metal into a Chemical Compound: The Preparation of Alum An experiment in recycling an aluminum can into a chemical compound

The Aluminum Beverage Can. An article by William F. Hosford and John L. Duncan, from Scientific American, September 1994, describing the design and manufacture of aluminum beverage cans.

Growing Alum Crystals This is what we do with the alum we make in the above experiment. Growing crystals is chemical "magic". Alum can be purchased in most supermarkets.

Chemical Reactions

Chemical Reactions This is a conceptual introduction to chemical reactions in microscale

Synthesis of Zinc Iodide: Tracking a Chemical Reaction This experiment is meant to be paired with Chemical Reactions, above. Students look at properties of the reactants and product and document a chemical change.

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Limiting Reagents and Determination of NaHCO3 in Alka Seltzer Tablets

Properties of Solutions

Osmosis and Dialysis

Standardization of a Basic Solution and Analysis of Stomach Antacid Tablets Students prepare solutions of HCl and NaOH, standardize the NaOH against the HCl, and titrate stomach antacid tablets. (Used for the introductory chemistry course.)

Preparation of Acid and Basic Solutions and Analysis of Stomach Antacid Tablets Students prepare solutions of HCl and NaOH, standardize the NaOH against a primary standard, standardize the HCl, and titrate stomach antacid tablets. (Used for the general chemistry course.)

Solubility of a Salt in Water at Various Temperatures

Testing the Waters: How Good is That Bottled Water and How Effective is Your Water Filter Testing of drinking water using laboratory apparatus and Hach water test kits.

Kinetics

Alka Seltzer: An Introduction to Kinetics

Acids and Bases

Acids, Bases, and pH Using Red Cabbage Paper Determination of pH of household materials. This can be set up in a classroom.

Atmospheric Chemistry and Gases

How do we Affect the Quality of Our Atmosphere

Determination of the Volume of CO2 in Pop Rocks

Earth Science

Earth Science

Preparation of Malachite

Extracting a Metal From Its Ore

Soil Analysis

Landfills and Recycling Construct a mini-landfill.

Energy

Build a Wind Turbine This is a link to The Pembina Institute Re-energy.ca site. You can download the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine instructions from this web site. Also download and print the construction modifications and templates Also look for the water wheel construction plans on that web site.

Build a Solar Oven This is a link to The Pembina Institute Re-energy.ca site. Download the solar oven construction plans from this web site. There will be some modifications made in class.

Batteries Build a range of batteries from a voltaic pile to a dry cell battery.

Construction of a Microscale Fuel Cell

The Synthesis of Biodiesel from Vegetable Oil

Nanotechnology experiments are located at the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Click on this link to go to the entire Video Lab Manual of experiments for Nanoscale Science and Technology. The links below will take you directly to the experiments or will open a modified experiment..

Synthesis of Aqueous Ferrofluid Nanoparticles

Synthesis of Cholesteryl Ester Liquid Crystals This is a preparation of both pressure sensitive and temperature sensitive liquid crystal mixtures

Nanotechnology: Investigation of a Liquid Crystal Watch

Graphene Prepare graphene from graphite with sticky tape

Nitinol wire Train Nitinol to a desired shape.

Preparation of Surface Conductive Glass

Titanium Dioxide Raspberry Solar Cell

In addition to the above experiments, there is a section of Nanoscale Science and Technology Demonstrations, a series of short movies that demonstrate aspects of nanotechnology. Click on this link to go to the movie page. (Requires Quicktime which can be downloaded at no cost from the link on the movie page.)

The Nano Song by the Sounds of Science a group of graduate students and alumni at UC Berkeley. Nanotechnology can be fun.

Forensics This is a link to forensics experiments on a separate web page

Household Product Experiments:

Soaps and Detergents

The Chemistry of Soaps and Detergents

Evaluation of Detergents and Cleaning Aids Stain cloth to test your detergent

Food Experiments

Testing the Waters: How Good is That Bottled Water and How Effective is Your Water Filter Testing of drinking water using laboratory apparatus and Hach water test kits.

Potato Chip Tasting

Determination of Fat in Potato Chips

Popcorn

Microwave Popcorn

Apple Browning: A look at antioxidants

Butter in a Bottle

Size of a Fatty Acid Molecule

Zip-Lock Pickles

Root Beer

Make Your Own Orange Drink

Peanut and Nut Butter

Easy Cheese

How Yeast Works

Esters: The Preparation of Artificial Food Flavors

Experiments with personal care materials and cosmetics

Toothpaste Testing

Preparation of a Skin Cream Prepare a basic skin cream and learn how each ingredient works.

Isolation of an Essential Oil

Perfume Use essential oils to make perfumes

Preparation and Evaluation of Sunscreens

Experiments involving over-the-counter drugs

The Drug Lab: Synthesis of Aspirin and Acetaminophen

Standardization of a Basic Solution and Analysis of Stomach Antacid Tablets

Standardization of a Basic Solution and Analysis of Stomach Antacid Tablets Students prepare solutions of HCl and NaOH, standardize the NaOH against the HCl, and titrate stomach antacid tablets. (Used for the introductory chemistry course.)

Preparation of Acid and Basic Solutions and Analysis of Stomach Antacid Tablets Students prepare solutions of HCl and NaOH, standardize the NaOH against a primary standard, standardize the HCl, and titrate stomach antacid tablets. (Used for the general chemistry course.)

Metals

Heat Treatment of Iron The Heat treatment of Iron using hair pins.

Cleaning Metals and Metal Polish cleans metals two different ways

Electroplating is currently under development

An Experiment in Alchemy: Copper to Silver to Gold

Nitinol: Metal with a memory

Polymers

Identification of a Polymer A polymer analysis lab

Polymers includes the preparation of several different polymers

Preparation of Synthetic Rubber

Dyes and Dyeing

Dyes and Dyeing

Natural Plant Dyes

Papermaking

Papermaking

Experiments involving artist materials

Making Wax Crayons

Making Pastels is currently under development

Christmas Experiments Used as end-of-semester experiments, often before Christmas break.

Partial Thermal Degradation of Mixed Saccharides With Protein Inclusions with Teacher Notes

The Silver Mirror Reaction I use old, 50 or 100-mL round bottom flasks. Can be done as a demonstration.

Useful Information

Science Demonstrations, Experiments, and Resources: A Reference List for Elementary through College Teachers Emphasizing Chemistry with some Physics and Life Science

Common Chemicals and Supplies in and Around Your Home

Measurement Equivalents for Science Activities

Mass-Volume Equivalents of Common Chemical Solids

Grades of Purity of Chemicals

Temperature Chart