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Colourful Chemistry

04 August 2011

carbon dioxide - webDr Joel Loveridge and James Pritchard show the amazing properties of carbon dioxide

The School of Chemistry recently provided visitors to Techniquest with a colourful introduction to the world of chemistry.

As part of Techniquest’s International Year of Chemistry celebrations, staff from the School teamed up with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to entertain crowds with a variety of hands-on activities and experiments, including self-inflating balloons, multi-coloured markers and amazing red cabbage. Almost 400 children and adults engaged with the activities over the course of the day.

Dr Dayna Mason, the RSC Co-ordinator for Wales based at the School of Chemistry, said: "One of the most popular activities was paper chromatography – using filter paper and water to separate the colours of marker pens. Children of all ages were delighted to see the lines of black, brown and green become smudges of orange, pink and blue. Many visitors returned to our stall to collect their rainbow masterpieces and take them home."

spectrometry - webDr Dayna Mason demonstrates spectrometry

Another experiment showed how the juice of a red cabbage can be used to indicate if something is acidic or alkaline. Visitors to the School’s stall investigated the acidity of common household products by adding solutions to red cabbage juice. In a neutral solution, the juice turns green, in an acid it turns pink, and it becomes green in an alkaline solution.

The team also made use of the fact that carbon dioxide changes directly from a solid to a gas at normal pressures. As gases take up much more space than solids, putting a little solid carbon dioxide into a balloon or latex glove, tying it and shaking it makes the balloon appear to inflate itself.

The Cardiff team consisted of Dr James Redman, Dr Joel Loveridge, Dr Emma Carter, James Pritchard, Bruce Rogers and Dr Dayna Mason. The activities and experiments were based on resources developed by the RSC.

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