10 Amazing Chemical Reactions

Cool Chemistry in Action

Chemistry is known for its amazing chemical reactions.
Chemistry is known for its amazing chemical reactions. WALTER ZERLA / Getty Images

Here are ten amazing and cool chemical reactions. If you're lucky, you can try these chemical reactions in a lab or see them performed as demonstrations. If not, there are incredible videos that show what happens!

01
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Thermite and Ice

Some more thermite burning
CaesiumFluoride/Wikimedia Commons/CC by 3.0

The thermite reaction basically is 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
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Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Clock

The color change clock reaction cycles from clear to golden to blue and back again.
The color change clock reaction cycles from clear to golden to blue and back again. rubberball / Getty Images

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
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Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate

Hot ice resembles water ice, except it is warm to the touch.
Hot ice resembles water ice, except it is warm to the touch. ICT_Photo / Getty Images

Sodium acetate is a chemical that can be supercooled. This means 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
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Magnesium and Dry Ice Reaction

Magnesium burns with a bright white light,
Magnesium burns with a bright white light,. ANDREW LAMBERT PHOTOGRAPHY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

When ignited, magnesium produces a very bright white light. It's why handheld sparkler fireworks are so brilliant. While you may think fire requires oxygen, this reaction demonstrates carbon dioxide and magnesium 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 Gummi Bear Reaction

In the chemical reaction, the candies dance amidst flames.
In the chemical reaction, the candies dance amidst flames. Géza Bálint Ujvárosi / EyeEm / Getty Images

The Dancing Gummi Bear is a reaction between sugar and potassium chlorate, producing 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 Gummi Bear. You can use any candy to supply the sugar. Depending on how you perform the reaction, you may get more of an immolation than a bear tango. It's all good.

06
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Colored Fire Rainbow

Metal ions emit different colors of light when they are heated in a flame.
Metal ions emit different colors of light when they are heated in a flame. Science Photo Library / Getty Images

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.

07
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Sodium and Chlorine Reaction

Reacting sodium and chlorine to make salt is an exothermic reaction.
Reacting sodium and chlorine to make salt is an exothermic reaction. ANIMATED HEALTHCARE LTD/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

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
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Elephant Toothpaste Reaction

The elephant toothpaste demo is an exothermic chemical reaction.
The elephant toothpaste demo is an exothermic chemical reaction. JW LTD / Getty Images

The elephant toothpaste reaction is the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, catalyzed by the iodide ion. The reaction produces a ton of hot, steamy foam, plus it can be colored or even striped to resemble certain toothpastes. 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
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Supercool Water

If you disturb water that has been supercooled or cooled below its freezing point, it will suddenly crystallize into ice.
If you disturb water that has been supercooled or cooled below its freezing point, it will suddenly crystallize into ice. Momoko Takeda / Getty Images

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 looking very cool, 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
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Sugar Snake

Sugar burns and turns into black carbon.
Sugar burns and turns into black carbon. Tetra Images / Getty Images

Mixing sugar (sucrose) with sulfuric acid produces carbon and steam. However, the sugar doesn't simply blacken! 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 is 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.