10 Amazing Chemical Reactions

Two hands pour contents of test tube into laboratory flask
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Mixing baking soda and vinegar is a popular way to see what happens when chemicals react. If you want to learn more about chemical reactions, there are plenty of others you can perform at home or in a school lab. The 10 below produce some of the most amazing results.

01
of 10

Thermite and Ice

Thermite burning on grass

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The thermite reaction is basically an example of what happens when metal burns. What happens if you perform the thermite reaction on a block of ice? You get a spectacular explosion. The reaction is so stupendous that the "Mythbusters" team tested it and verified it was real.

02
of 10

Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Clock

Dropping yellow liquid into blue liquid

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This chemical reaction is amazing because it involves a cyclic color change. A colorless solution cycles through clear, amber, and deep blue for several minutes. Like most color change reactions, this demonstration is a good example of a redox reaction or oxidation-reduction.

03
of 10

Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate

Hot ice cubes
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Sodium acetate is a chemical that can be supercooled, meaning it can remain a liquid below its normal freezing point. The amazing part of this reaction is initiating crystallization. Pour supercooled sodium acetate onto a surface and it will solidify as you watch, forming towers and other interesting shapes. The chemical also is known as "hot ice" because the crystallization occurs at room temperature, producing crystals that resemble ice cubes.

04
of 10

Magnesium and Dry Ice Reaction

Magnesium burning with dry ice

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When ignited, magnesium produces a very bright white light—this is why handheld sparkler fireworks are so brilliant. While you may think fire requires oxygen, this reaction demonstrates that carbon dioxide and magnesium can participate in a displacement reaction that produces fire without oxygen gas. When you light magnesium inside a block of dry ice, you get brilliant light.

05
of 10

Dancing Gummy Bear Reaction

Gummy bears
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The dancing gummy bear is a reaction between sugar and potassium chlorate, which produces violet fire and a lot of heat. It's an excellent introduction to the art of pyrotechnics because sugar and potassium chlorate are representative of a fuel and oxidizer, such as you might find in fireworks. There's nothing magical about the gummy bear. You can use any candy to supply the sugar. Depending on how you perform the reaction, though, you may get more of a sudden immolation than a bear tango.

06
of 10

Fire Rainbow

Abstract Diagonal Red Blue Sparks - Background Party New Year Celebration Technology
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When metal salts are heated, the ions emit various colors of light. If you heat the metals in a flame, you get colored fire. While you can't simply mix different metals together to get a rainbow fire effect, if you line them up in a row, you can get all the colored flames of the visual spectrum.

07
of 10

Sodium and Chlorine Reaction

Water & salt,sodium chloride on wooden surface.
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Sodium and chlorine react to form sodium chloride, or table salt. Sodium metal and chlorine gas don't do much on their own until a drop of water is added to get things going. This is an extremely exothermic reaction that generates a lot of heat and light.

08
of 10

Elephant Toothpaste Reaction

Foam exploding from a glass container
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The elephant toothpaste reaction is the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, catalyzed by the iodide ion. The reaction produces a ton of hot, steamy foam, which can be colored or even striped to resemble certain kinds of toothpaste. Why is it called the elephant toothpaste reaction? Only an elephant tusk needs a strip of toothpaste as wide as the one produced by this amazing reaction.

09
of 10

Supercooled Water

Ice shaped like a water bottle
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If you chill water below its freezing point, it doesn't always freeze. Sometimes it supercools, which allows you to make it freeze on command. Aside from being amazing to observe, the crystallization of supercooled water into ice is a great reaction because just about anyone can obtain a bottle of water to try it out for themselves.

10
of 10

Sugar Snake

Sugar cubes stacked on top of each other
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Mixing sugar (sucrose) with sulfuric acid produces carbon and steam. However, the sugar doesn't simply blacken. Rather, the carbon forms a steaming tower that pushes itself out of a beaker or glass, resembling a black snake. The reaction smells like burnt sugar, too. Another interesting chemical reaction can be produced by combining sugar with baking soda. Burning the mixture produces a safe "black snake" firework that burns as a coil of black ash but doesn't explode.