Color Change Chemistry Experiments

Color Change Chemistry Experiments

Chemical reactions often produce dramatic color changes.
Chemical reactions often produce dramatic color changes. David Freund, Getty Images

Color change chemistry experiments are interesting, visually appealing, and illustrate a wide range of chemical processes. These chemical reactions are visible examples of chemical changes in matter. For example, color change experiments can show oxidation-reduction, pH changes, temperatures changes, exothermic and endothermic reactions, stoichiometry, and other important concepts. Colors associated with holidays are popular, such as red-green for Christmas, and orange-black for Halloween. There's a colorful reaction for just about any occasion.

Here is a list of color change chemistry experiments, in all the colors of the rainbow.

Try the Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Clock Reaction

The Briggs-Rauscher reaction changes color from amber to blue.
The Briggs-Rauscher reaction changes color from amber to blue. George Doyle, Getty Images

The Oscillating Clock or Briggs-Rauscher reaction changes color from clear to amber to blue. The reaction cycles between colors for a few minutes, eventually turning blue-black.

Try the Briggs-Rauscher Color Change Reaction

Fun Water into Blood or Wine Demonstration

A pH indicator can be used to make water appear to change into wine or blood.
A pH indicator can be used to make water appear to change into wine or blood. Tetra Images, Getty Images

pH indicators are extremely useful for color change chemical reactions. For example, you can use phenolphthalein indicator to make water appear to turn into blood or wine and back to water (clear - red - clear).

This simple color change demonstration is perfect for Halloween or Easter.

Turn Water into Blood or Wine

Cool Olympic Rings Color Chemistry

Use chemistry to turn solutions the colors of the Olympic Rings.
Use chemistry to turn solutions the colors of the Olympic Rings. Anne Helmenstine

Transition metal complexes produce brightly-colored chemical solutions. One nice demonstration of the effect is called the Olympic Rings. Clear solutions change color to make the symbolic colors of the Olympic Games.

Make Olympic Rings with Chemistry

Turn Water Into Gold With Chemistry

Alchemy can't really turn water into gold, but it can simulate the appearance.
Alchemy can't really turn water into gold, but it can simulate the appearance. Maarten Wouters, Getty Images

Alchemists try to turn elements and other substances into gold. Modern scientists have achieved this feat using particle accelerators and nuclear reactions, but the best you can manage in a typical chemistry lab is to make a chemical appear to turn into gold. It's a fascinating color change reaction.

Turn Water into "Liquid Gold"

Water - Wine - Milk - Beer Color Change Reaction

The wine and beer simulated by this chemistry demonstration aren't alcoholic, nor are they good to drink.
The wine and beer simulated by this chemistry demonstration aren't alcoholic, nor are they good to drinkr. John Svoboda, Getty Images

Here's a fun color change project in which a solution is poured from a water glass into a wine glass, tumbler, and beer glass. Pre-treating the glassware causes the solution to change to appear to go from water to wine to milk to beer. This set of reactions is perfect for a magic show as well as a chemistry demonstration.

Try the Water - Wine - Milk - Beer Chem Demo

Easy To Make Red Cabbage Juice pH Indicator

These are red cabbage juice color changes at different pH values.
These are red cabbage juice color changes at different pH values. Red (acidic, lemon juice), blue (neutral, nothing added), green (basic, soap). Clive Streeter, Getty Images

 You can use household ingredients to observe color change chemistry. For example, red cabbage juice changes color in response to pH changes when it is mixed with other chemicals. No dangerous chemicals are needed, plus you can use the juice to make homemade pH paper, which will change color when used to test home or lab chemicals.

Blue Bottle Color Change (Other Colors Too)

The classic blue bottle color change is clear to blue, but there are many other color variations you can try.
The classic blue bottle color change is clear to blue, but there are many other color variations you can try. Medioimages/Photodisc, Getty Images

The classic 'blue bottle' color change reaction uses methylene blue in a reaction that changes color from clear to blue and back to blue. Other indicators work, too, so you can change colors from red to clear to red (resazurin) or from green to red/yellow to green (indigo carmine).

Try the Blue Bottle Color Change Demonstration

Magic Rainbow Wand Chemical Reaction - 2 Ways

You can set up the rainbow wand demonstration to run through a single glass tube or through a set of test tubes.
You can set up the rainbow wand demonstration to run through a single glass tube or through a set of test tubes. David Freund, Getty Images

You can use a pH indicator solution to display a rainbow of colors. All you need is the right indicator and either a glass tube containing indicator solution and a pH gradient or else a series of test tubes at different pH values. Two indicators that work well for this color change are Universal Indicator and red cabbage juice.

Make a pH Rainbow Wand

Spooky Old Nassau or Halloween Color Change Reaction

The chemical solution changes from orange to black in the Old Nassau reaction.
The chemical solution changes from orange to black in the Old Nassau reaction. Medioimages/Photodisc, Getty Images

The Old Nassau reaction is popular as a Halloween chemistry demonstration because the chemical solution changes from orange to black. The traditional form of the demonstration uses mercury chloride, so this reaction is not commonly seen anymore because the solution shouldn't be poured down the drain.

Try the Old Nassau Reaction

Valentine's Day Pink Color Change Demonstrations

Pink chemical solutions are great for Valentine's Day chemistry demonstrations.
Pink chemical solutions are great for Valentine's Day chemistry demonstrations. Sami Sarkis

Try a pink color change chemistry demonstration for Valentine's Day.

The "Hot and Cold Valentine" is a temperature dependent color change that goes from pink to colorless and back to pink. The reaction uses the common indicator phenolphthalein.

The "Vanishing Valentine" uses a resazurin solution that starts out blue. After a matter of minutes, this solution becomes clear. When the flask is swirled, the contents change to pink. The liquid again becomes colorless and can be cycled through the clear-to-pink cycle multiple times.

Red and Green Christmas Chemistry Color Change Reaction

You can use indigo carmine to prepare a solution that changes color from green to red.
You can use indigo carmine to prepare a solution that changes color from green to red. Medioimages/Photodisc, Getty Images

You can use indigo carmine to prepare a solution that changes color from green to red, making an excellent Christmas chemistry demonstration. Actually, the initial solution is blue, which changes to green and finally to red/yellow. The color of the solution can be cycled between green and red.

Try the Christmas Color Change Reaction 

Colored Flames Chemical Reactions To Try

Chemical reactions can change the color of flames.
Chemical reactions can change the color of flames. Tony Worrall Foto, Getty Images

Color change chemistry isn't restricted to chemical solutions. Chemical reactions produce interesting colors in flames, too. Colored fire spray bottles may be the most popular, where a person sprays a solution toward a flame, changing its color. Many other interesting projects are available. These reactions are the basis of flame tests and bead tests, used to help identify unknown samples.

More Color Change Chemistry Experiments

Many chemical reactions produce color changes.
Many chemical reactions produce color changes. Science Photo Library, Getty Images

There are many more color change chemical reactions that you can do as experiments and demonstrations. Here are some to try:

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Color Change Chemistry Experiments." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/color-change-chemistry-experiments-606187. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, October 3). Color Change Chemistry Experiments. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/color-change-chemistry-experiments-606187 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Color Change Chemistry Experiments." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/color-change-chemistry-experiments-606187 (accessed November 19, 2017).