10 Cool Chemistry Experiments

Cool chemistry experiments: alkali metal in water, dehydration of sugar, copper and nitric acid, elephant toothpaste, colored fire, thermite reaction

ThoughtCo / Hilary Allison

Chemistry is king when it comes to making science cool. There are many interesting and fun projects to try, but these 10 awesome chemistry experiments can make anyone enjoy science.

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Copper and Nitric Acid

Copper reaction
Public domain/Wikimedia Commons

When you place a piece of copper in nitric acid, the Cu2+ ions and nitrate ions coordinate to color the solution green and then brownish-green. If you dilute the solution, water displaces nitrate ions around the copper and the solution changes to blue.

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Hydrogen Peroxide with Potassium Iodide

Elephant Toothpaste Reaction
Jasper White, Getty Images

Affectionately known as elephant toothpaste, the chemical reaction between the peroxide and potassium iodide shoots out a column of foam. If you add food coloring, you can customize the "toothpaste" for holiday-colored themes.

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Any Alkali Metal in Water

Sodium metal in glass bowl of red Litmus water producing sodium hydroxide and hydrogen, close-up
Andy Crawford and Tim Ridley / Getty Images

Any of the alkali metals will react vigorously in water. How vigorously? Sodium burns bright yellow. Potassium burns violet. Lithium burns red. Cesium explodes. Experiment by moving down the alkali metals group of the periodic table. 

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Thermite Reaction

welting two rod bar
nanoqfu / Getty Images

The thermite reaction essentially shows what would happen if iron rusted instantly, rather than over time. In other words, it's making metal burn. If the conditions are right, just about any metal will burn. However, the reaction usually is performed by reacting iron oxide with aluminum:

Fe2O3 + 2Al → 2Fe + Al2O3 + heat and light

If you want a truly stunning display, try placing the mixture inside a block of dry ice and then lighting the mixture.

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Coloring Fire

Colored flames

 SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

 When ions are heated in a flame, electrons become excited, then drop to a lower energy state, emitting photons. The energy of the photons is characteristic of the chemical and corresponds to specific flame colors. It's the basis for the flame test in analytical chemistry, plus it's fun to experiment with different chemicals to see what colors they produce in a fire.

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Make Polymer Bouncy Balls

Pink sparkling pearls background
mikroman6 / Getty Images

Who doesn't enjoy playing with bouncy balls? The chemical reaction used to make the balls makes a terrific experiment because you can alter the properties of the balls by changing the ratio of the ingredients.

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Make a Lichtenberg Figure

This Lichtenberg figure was formed inside a" cube of polymethyl methacrylate.
Bert Hickman, Stoneridge Engineering

A Lichtenberg figure or "electrical tree" is a record of the path taken by electrons during an electrostatic discharge. It's basically frozen lightning. There are several ways you can make an electrical tree.

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Experiment with 'Hot Ice'

A crystal of hot ice
Henry Mühlfpordt

Hot Ice is a name given to sodium acetate, a chemical you can make by reacting vinegar and baking soda. A solution of sodium acetate can be supercooled​ so that it will crystallize on command. Heat is evolved when the crystals form, so although it resembles water ice, it's hot.

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Barking Dog Experiment

Barking Dog Chemistry Demonstration
Tobias Abel, Creative Commons

The Barking Dog is the name given to a chemiluminescent reaction between the exothermic reaction between nitrous oxide or nitrogen monoxide and carbon disulfide. The reaction proceeds down a tube, emitting blue light and a characteristic "woof" sound.

Another version of the demonstration involves coating the inside of a clear jug with alcohol and igniting the vapor. The flame front proceeds down the ​bottle, which also barks.

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Dehydration of Sugar

Sulfuric Acid and Sugar
Peretz Partensky, Creative Commons

When you react sugar with sulfuric acid, the sugar is violently dehydrated. The result is a growing column of carbon black, heat, and the overwhelming odor of burnt caramel.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Cool Chemistry Experiments." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/cool-chemistry-experiments-604271. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2023, April 5). 10 Cool Chemistry Experiments. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cool-chemistry-experiments-604271 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "10 Cool Chemistry Experiments." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cool-chemistry-experiments-604271 (accessed June 8, 2023).