Bicarb rockets

Bicarb rockets are fun to make and launch.

Lift off!

Lift off!

We use 150 ml vinegar and 3.5g sodium bicarbonate in a 600 ml plastic bottle. It’s easy to make a bicarb rocket if you have a rubber bung which tightly fits into the top of the bottle. We use a tripod to launch from as shown below and can easily reach a height of a three storey building using these materials.

The rocket building materials

The rocket building materials

The rocket, a 600ml water bottle

The rocket, a 600ml water bottle

Vinegar (dilute ethanoic acid)

Vinegar (dilute ethanoic acid)

Sodium bicarbonate (sodium hydrogen carbonate)

Sodium bicarbonate
(sodium hydrogen carbonate)

The bicarb is wrapped in paper towel to produce a small pellet

The bicarb is wrapped in paper towel to produce a small pellet

Do this outside!

Do this outside!

Countdown

Countdown

5, 4, 3, 2,...

5, 4, 3, 2,…

Here are some .gif animations of various bicarb rocket flights. Most of them were recorded at 240 fps (frames per second) using a Casio EX-FH100 camera.

A whole flight in frame

A whole flight in frame

A little closer

A little closer

Closer still

Closer still

CIMG9875_010

Too close – do you want vinegar on that!

Hit the roof

Hit the roof

How high can you go?

How high can you go?

Viewed from above (shot at 120 fps)

Viewed from above (shot at 120 fps)

Questions (answers next time)

1. What are the word and balanced symbol equations for this chemical reaction?

2. What is it that actually propels the rocket upwards?

“Propane Rockets”

SAFETY FIRST: This demonstration must be done with care and adequate ear protection must be worn by all present, along with safety spectacles. The use of commercial ear protectors are advised.

A propane rocket

A propane rocket


One demonstration that can be used to show how the ratio of reacting gas volumes relates directly to mole quantities in a balanced chemical equation is with a “propane rocket”.

In the experiments described below we used bottled gas, or LPG, which contains a mixture of propane and butane, in a 600 ml plastic bottle. Oxygen was also required. When ready to launch the bottle rocket was suspended from a fishing line using two paper clips and two rubber bands.

Fuelled and ready to launch

Fuelled and ready to launch

The balanced equations for the complete combustion of propane and butane are shown below.
Equations for the complete combustion of propane and butane

Equations for the complete combustion of propane and butane

Thus, it can be seen from the first equation that 5 volumes of oxygen are required to completely burn 1 volume of propane.

The gases are introduced into the bottle rocket by displacing water as shown. It is recommended that a fresh plastic bottle is used each time.

Oxygen from a gas syringe

Oxygen from a gas syringe

Followed by LPG

Followed by LPG


When the gases are used in the proportion of 5 volumes of oxygen to 1 volume of bottled gas, a very loud explosion propels the bottle at speed across the laboratory.
Complete combustion.. BANG!

Complete combustion.. BANG!

Reduce the proportion of oxygen and incomplete combustion occurs. By trial and error a slower flying rocket can be obtained.

With 3 to 4 volumes of oxygen : 1 volume of propane a slower rocket results

With 3 to 4 volumes of oxygen : 1 volume of propane a slower rocket results

However, if the proportion of oxygen is reduced too far the rocket will fail to launch.

Too much fuel, not enough oxygen - disaster!

Too much fuel, not enough oxygen – disaster!

All of the above .gif animations were produced from high speed movies shot at 120 fps (frames per second). Here is another animation produced from a movie shot at 1000fps

High speed movie 1000fps

High speed movie 1000fps

Frame by frame

Frame by frame

Thus, the effect of varying the molar ratio of the two reacting gases, using reacting gas volumes, can be shown.

Match head rockets

Match head rockets are fun to make.

For safety we use no more than four match heads.

We have lift off

We have lift off

There are many videos on You Tube describing how to make these rockets.

Here’s how we do it:

About 15 x 10 cm

About 15 x 10 cm

But trial and error is involved

But trial and error is involved

Roll smoothly

Roll smoothly

and tightly

and tightly

This is the rocket body

This is the rocket body

Making way for the fuel

Making way for the fuel

No more than four

No more than four

Don't worry if the solid crumbles

Don’t worry if the solid crumbles off

Experiment with a mixture of crumbles and whole match heads

Experiment with a mixture of crumbles and whole match heads

Don't let the stick fall out whilst loading

Don’t let the stick fall out whilst loading

Use a second stick as a ram rod

Use a second stick as a ram rod

This tail is probably a little too short

This tail is probably a little too short

The pin forms part of the launch pad

The pin forms part of the launch pad

Wrap tightly to form an exhaust tube

Wrap tightly to form an exhaust tube

You can twist the foil too

You can twist the foil too

Make sure the pin moves in and out smoothly

Make sure the pin moves in and out smoothly

This is going to roll up

This is going to roll up

Like a party toy or tube of toothpaste

Like a party toy or tube of toothpaste

Squash the end as tightly as you can

Squash the end as tightly as you can

Pliers do work

Pliers do work

But so does biting down with your teeth

But so does biting down with your teeth

All systems go

All systems go

You can vary the angle easily by pushing the end of the pin into Plasticene

You can vary the angle easily by pushing the end of the pin into Plasticene

The launch – Wear eye protection and stand well back

This one seemed to have too many whole match heads which shot out of the rocket quite spectacularly

This one seemed to have too many whole match heads which shot out of the rocket quite spectacularly

Here are three more animations of another successful launch.

Students were not allowed to hold the Bunsen burner as shown.

Teachers do so at their own risk, but they must wear gloves and a full face mask if they do.

Crumbled up match head solid fuel seems to burn more smoothly

Crumbled up match head solid fuel seems to burn more smoothly

They can sometimes fly several metres

They can sometimes fly several metres

MUST WEAR GLOVES (unlike here)

MUST WEAR GLOVES (unlike here)

The squashed and rolled up aluminium foil unwinds on launch and is puffed out

The squashed and rolled up aluminium foil unwinds on launch and is puffed out

Launch pad failure

Launch pad failure

Launch pad failures are quite common and seem to occur particularly when the nose is not flattened tightly enough during manufacture or when a hole is made in the foil.

Answers to two chemical reactions last time

Equations for the reactions are:

iron + sulfur   –>  iron sulfide

Fe  +  S   –>   FeS

and

copper (II) oxide  +  carbon   –>   copper  +  carbon dioxide

2 CuO   +   C    –>   2 Cu   +   CO2

Both reactions give out a lot of heat and this can be seen by the intense glow which continues even when the external heat source is taken away.  Reactions which give out heat like this are called exothermic reactions.

Here are some pictures of the products.  First the iron sulfide:

We had to smash the test-tube to get the product out of this one

We had to smash the test-tube to get the product out of this one

Unfortunately, it was still attracted to a magnet, typically due to unreacted iron filings

Unfortunately, it was still attracted to a magnet, typically due to unreacted iron filings

The fused lump of product probably consists of iron sulfide plus unreacted iron filings and some sulfur

The fused lump of product probably consists of iron sulfide plus unreacted iron filings and some sulfur

Here is the product of the thermal reduction of copper (II) oxide with carbon:

Brown coloured copper metal is produced

Brown coloured copper metal is produced

 

 

Two chemical reactions

Two chemical reactions often done at school are the reaction of iron filings with sulphur and the reduction of copper (II) oxide with carbon. Answers to the questions posed below will be given in the next blog.

1. The reaction of iron filings with sulphur

Iron filings and sulphur

Iron filings and sulphur

The reaction is hot!

The reaction is hot!

How can you tell that the reaction produces a lot of heat?

What is the name of the product?  Will it be magnetic like the iron filings?

The product of the reaction

The product of the reaction

2. The reduction of copper (II) oxide with carbon

A mixture of copper (II) oxide and carbon

A mixture of copper (II) oxide and carbon

Mini volcano!

Mini volcano!

How can you tell that the reaction produces a lot of heat?

What are the products of this reaction? What will the contents of the test-tube look like when it has cooled down?

What is the new brown coloured material?

What is the new brown coloured material?

Two exothermic reactions often carried out in school.

Can you write equations for these two reactions?

Fun with luminol

Luminol is a chemical frequently used to produce blue light by chemiluminescence.

One classic demonstration uses luminol in a reaction carried out as it spirals down a length of tubing such as the one shown here:

Chemiluminescence, courtesy of Nigel Evans, Bloxham School.

Chemiluminescence, courtesy of Nigel Evans, Bloxham School.

Another demonstration uses luminol in a spray to detect fake ‘blood spatter’ such as is often seen in TV forensic science dramas. In our school chemistry club we used a recipe published by Anne Marie Helmenstine on About.com This recipe requires two solutions which are mixed together in equal proportions shortly before use. Solution 1 – Luminol stock solution (2 g luminol + 15 g potassium hydroxide + 250 mL water). Solution 2 – 3% hydrogen peroxide in water (our local pharmacy supplied a 6% hydrogen peroxide solution which needed to be diluted by half with water). However, because this mixture uses a fairly concentrated solution of potassium hydroxide, which is corrosive, it must be used in a fume cupboard. Under such conditions we were unable to see much of a glow when sprayed onto test paper ‘painted’ with an iron (III) chloride solution.

We had much more fun by pouring the luminol mixture into a Petri dish in a darkened room. We then added 0.1M iron (III) chloride and 0.1M copper (II) sulfate using dropping pipettes. In this way more students were able to investigate this exciting reaction for themselves:

Luminol reaction in a Petri dish

Luminol reaction in a Petri dish

In another similar experiment we tried electrolysing the reaction mixture using graphite electrodes and 9v from a power pack:

Electrolysing the luminol reaction

Electrolysing the luminol reaction

You too might have some fun if you try this. Happy Halloween from our Chemistry Club.

Strawberry blonde

How do you make a strawberry blonde?
Why, hydrogen peroxide of course!

We have been doing some experiments with strawberries recently. First we wanted to look at the effect of freezing on strawberries.

Strawberry frostbite

Strawberry frostbite

So we did an experiment where we observed what happened when a frozen strawberry (on the left) and a chilled strawberry (on the right) were allowed to warm up to room temperature side by side.
On your marks!

On your marks!

Here’s an animation of the warming up process:
Slushy

Slushy

The ice crystals in the frozen strawberry have destroyed much of the internal structure of the strawberry such that it collapses into a mush, oozing out juice on thawing.
Mushy

Mushy


Our second experiment looked at what happened when a strawberry was placed in hydrogen peroxide bought from a local pharmacy. Take care to read the safety precautions on the label when using hydrogen peroxide.
How do you make a strawberry blonde?

How do you make a strawberry blonde?

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to take the colour out of hair or a strawberry.
In we go... just sit back and relax.

In we go… just sit back and relax.

Hey presto, a white strawberry.
And the colour is gone

And the colour is gone

The bleached strawberry still smelled like a strawberry. Do not eat!
Bleached strawberry

Bleached strawberry


Our third experiment was a combination of the first two experiments. We decided to look at the effect of temperature on the bleaching process. Accordingly, we dipped a frozen strawberry and a room temperature strawberry into hydrogen peroxide side by side.
Which one will bleach quicker?

Which one will bleach quicker?

We measured the temperature difference between the two beakers.
Warm and cold

Warm and cold

And we watched what happened.
Which one loses colour faster?

Which one loses colour faster?

After about thirty minutes the cold one had warmed up a little.
Time to come out

Time to come out

And the warmer strawberry had lost more colour than the frozen one.
Warmer bleaches faster

Warmer bleaches faster

Increasing the temperature, increased the rate of reaction. In this case the bleaching of a strawberry. Although the loss in colour was not even across the surface of the strawberry in this experiment.
Close up

Close up

Last time I asked which metals were unlikely to react with 2M hydrochloric acid? The best answer is to pick metals such as gold and platinum at the bottom of the reactivity series. This would be an expensive experiment to carry out though.

Unreactive metals

One way to make a salt is to react a metal with an acid.

acid + metal -> salt + hydrogen

However, not all metals react with acids and those that do often react at different rates.

GCSE level students learn a reactivity series of metals. This lists a number of common metals in order of decreasing reactivity in chemical reactions.

One such list (in order of decreasing reactivity) would be:

Potassium
Sodium
Lithium
Calcium
Magnesium
Aluminium
Zinc
Iron
Tin
Lead
Copper
Silver
Gold

Potassium is the most reactive metal in this list and gold is the least reactive.

At school students frequently carry out reactions on a test-tube scale to illustrate the reactivity series of metals. One such reaction is the reaction of metals with hydrochloric acid.

In the pictures below magnesium, zinc, iron* and copper are shown reacting with 2M hydrochloric acid.

Four metals used at school to illustrate the reactivity series of metals

Four metals used at school to illustrate the reactivity series of metals

What is the order of reactivity of the four metals with 2M hydrochloric acid?

What is the order of reactivity of the four metals with 2M hydrochloric acid?


After about a minute magnesium is seen reacting the most vigourously of the four, followed by zinc which is the second most reactive.
After a few tens of seconds

After a few tens of seconds

*The ‘iron’ nail is almost certainly not pure iron, but probably a form of steel.

Under these conditions the magnesium completely reacts in a couple of minutes. After about an hour the zinc is seen reacting steadily and bubbles of hydrogen gas can be seen on the surface of the nail.

After about an hour

After about an hour

Thus, the order of reactivity as illustrated by this experiment is:
Magnesium
Zinc
Iron
Copper

Copper is sometimes described as being unreactive in this experiment, but the word unreactive must not be taken to mean ‘does not react at all’. Copper metal does react with 2M hydrochloric acid, only it reacts rather slowly. This is illustrated by the animation below (apologies for the wobbly nature of the timelapse photography here).

Iron and copper with 2M HCl for 1 week

Iron and copper with 2M HCl for 1 week


In this experiment, at the end of one week the rather thin piece of copper foil had virtually all gone, whilst the much bigger iron nail, or its remnants, were still seen bubbling away.
Copper foil after one week in 75ml 2M HCl

Copper foil after one week in 75ml 2M HCl

Iron nail after one week in 75ml 2M HCl

Iron nail after one week in 75ml 2M HCl

Thus, copper can be described as being relatively unreactive in this reaction with 2M hydrochloric acid, but it does react slowly. Can you suggest any metals which would not react with 2M hydrochloric acid?

Last time quiz crystal 1 was quartz and quiz crystal 2 was iron pyrite or Fool’s Gold. The answer to the third quiz question was neutralisation.

What does the word ‘salt’ mean?

The word salt has two meanings in chemistry, a general meaning and a specific meaning.

General meaning
Salt = a chemical compound (made in a chemical reaction, for example, by reacting an acid with a base).

Specific meaning
Salt = sodium chloride (‘common salt’)

So, one way to make a salt is to react an acid with a base. The word equation for this is:
acid + base -> salt + water (general meaning of the word salt)

An example of this kind of reaction would be to react hydrochloric acid with sodium hydroxide:
hydrochloric acid + sodium hydroxide -> sodium chloride + water (and in this example the salt made is salt! So you could say the word salt has both the general and the specific meaning here. Two meanings in one go.)

At school, students often make salts by chemical reactions. And most of the salts featured in the June 2014 post are examples of salts commonly made by students. However, at GCSE level students are typically only required to learn the structure of one salt and the structure that they learn is that of salt (sodium chloride) itself.

Sodium chloride has a cubic structure.

Here is an animation illustrating the build up of a cubic structure from sodium ions, Na+ shown as yellow spheres and chloride ions, Cl- shown as green spheres.

Building a sodium chloride crystal lattice

Building a sodium chloride crystal lattice

NaCl in 2D

NaCl in 2D

NaCl in 3D

NaCl in 3D

Our students also learn three other crystal structures at GCSE, but none of them are salts. They are the structures of diamond, quartz and graphite.

Can you identify the crystals in the two pictures below? One of them appears as golden cubes, but it is neither salt nor gold.

Quiz crystal 1

Quiz crystal 1

Quiz crystal 2

Quiz crystal 2

Third quiz question: what is the name of the type of reaction that takes place when an acid reacts with a base? Answers next post.

Iycr2014

2014 is The International Year of Crystallography and here are some crystals to celebrate the event.

Sodium chloride
NaCl_01

Sodium chloride crystals in an evaporating basin

Sodium chloride crystals in an evaporating basin

Sodium chloride crystals close up

Sodium chloride crystals close up

Sodium chloride crystals

Sodium chloride crystals

Sodium bromide
NaBr 01NaBr 02

Sodium bromide crystals on a watch glass

Sodium bromide crystals on a watch glass

Sodium bromide crystals close up

Sodium bromide crystals close up

Sodium iodide
NaI 01NaI 02

Sodium iodide crystallising in a Petri dish under the microscope

Sodium iodide crystallising in a Petri dish under the microscope

Sodium iodide crystals

Sodium iodide crystals

Sodium iodide in an evaporating basin

Sodium iodide in an evaporating basin

Sodium iodide crystal chunks

Sodium iodide crystal chunks

Sodium iodide on a watch glass

Sodium iodide on a watch glass

Potassium chloride
KCl 01KCl 02

Potassium chloride crystallising on a microscope slide

Potassium chloride crystallising on a microscope slide

Potassium chloride crystals

Potassium chloride crystals

KCl 05
Large potassium chloride crystals forming

Large potassium chloride crystals forming

Large crystals on a microscope slide

Large crystals on a microscope slide

Potassium bromide
KBr 01

Potassium bromide on a microscope slide

Potassium bromide on a microscope slide

Potassium bromide in an evaporating basin showing crystal creep

Potassium bromide in an evaporating basin showing crystal creep

Potassium bromide crystals

Potassium bromide crystals

Potassium iodide
KI 01

Potassium iodide crystals

Potassium iodide crystals

Potassium iodide crystals

Potassium iodide crystals

Potassium iodide crystal creep

Potassium iodide crystal creep

Ammonium sulfate
ammonium sulfate 01

Ammonium sulfate crystallising in an evaporating basin

Ammonium sulfate crystallising in an evaporating basin

Ammonium sulfate crystals

Ammonium sulfate crystals

Magnesium sulfate
MgSO4 01

Magnesium sulfate crystallising on a microscope slide

Magnesium sulfate crystallising on a microscope slide

Magnesium sulfate in an evaporating basin

Magnesium sulfate in an evaporating basin

Magnesium sulfate crystals

Magnesium sulfate crystals

Copper (II) sulfate
CuSO4 01

Copper sulfate in an evaporating basin

Copper sulfate in an evaporating basin

Copper sulfate crystals - blue diamond shaped

Copper sulfate crystals – blue diamond shaped

Last time I asked what would be the colours of rubidium and caesium in flame tests. The flame colours can be seen on this Royal Society of Chemistry video. I can see blue, purple and red colours in the rubidium and blue and a little purple in the caesium.

Violet is another word used to describe the colours which I have called purple.

LiNaKCa flame tests

Group 1 metals react with water to produce hydroxides. For example, sodium reacts to produce sodium hydroxide and potassium would give potassium hydroxide, as shown in the equations below:

sodium + water -> sodium hydroxide + hydrogen
2Na + 2H2O -> 2NaOH + H2
potassium + water -> potassium hydroxide + hydrogen
2K + 2H2O -> 2KOH + H2

These hydroxides dissolve in the water as they are produced and the water becomes alkaline. Hence the Group 1 metals are called The Alkali metals.

Most simple alkali metal compounds are white, crystalline solids which are soluble in water. The alkali metal chlorides, LiCl, NaCl and KCl are good examples, which appear as identical white, crystalline salts when encountered in the school laboratory.

One way to tell the difference between these Group 1 chlorides would be to carry out flame tests on them.

Here a small sample of a each salt is introduced into a blue Bunsen burner flame. Can you identify the metal in each of the flame tests on the basis of its colour? And which of the four samples is the odd one out?

Answers are given in the second set of four pictures, which follow in the same sample order.

Crimson red

Crimson red

Yellow

Yellow

Lilac

Lilac

Orange red

Orange red

Of course, the colours that we see in these images depend on a number of things including the camera used to record the images and computer screen used to view them. The colours we actually see with our eyes during such experiments may differ in shade and intensity from those shown here.

The four animated .gif images above were assembled from images taken with a Casio FH100 digital camera (which has a 10.1MP 1/2.3-inch backlit CMOS sensor).

By way of contrast the still images below were recorded using the same samples under the same conditions with a Ricoh Caplio GX100 digital camera (10.01 MP CCD 1/1.75-inch primary-color sensor).

Lithium chloride flame test

Lithium chloride flame test

Sodium chloride flame test

Sodium chloride flame test

Potassium chloride flame test

Potassium chloride flame test

Calcium nitrate flame test

Calcium nitrate flame test

The differences between the two image sets are quite striking.

In school textbooks the colours are recorded as; lithium = crimson red, sodium = yellow, potassium = lilac and calcium = red (sometimes as orange red or brick red).

Rubidium chloride and caesium chloride also produce characteristic flame test colours. What are they?

The Group 1 alkali metals all react vigorously with cold water. Calcium reacts a little less vigorously and is in Group 2 of the Periodic Table, The Alkaline Earth metals.

As such is the odd one out of the four flame tests shown above.