10 Cool Chemistry Experiments

Completely Awesome Chemical Reactions

Chemistry is king when it comes to making science cool! Here are 10 completely awesome chemistry experiments you can try.

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Copper and Nitric Acid

Copper and Nitric Acid
Copper and Nitric Acid. Clive Streeter, Getty Images

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.

Elephant Toothpaste Reaction
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. More »

Sodium in Water
Sodium in Water. Philip Evans, 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 basically explodes. Experiment moving down the alkali metals group of the periodic table. Here's how to try it with sodium metal. More »

Thermite Reaction
Thermite Reaction. Andy Crawford & Tim Ridley, 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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The rainbow of colored fire was made using common household chemicals to color the flames.
The rainbow of colored fire was made using common household chemicals to color the flames. Anne Helmenstine

 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. More »

Polymer balls may be translucent or opaque.
http://physics.about.com/od/glossary/g/heat.htm. Anne Helmenstine

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. More »

This Lichtenberg figure was formed inside a
This Lichtenberg figure or 'electrical tree' 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. All of them are cool!

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This is a crystal of sodium acetate trihydrate or hot ice.
This is 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. Cool, right? More »

Barking Dog Chemistry Demonstration
Barking Dog Chemistry Demonstration. Tobias Abel, Creative Commons

The Barking Dog is the name given to a chemiluminescent reaction between 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 the bottle, which also barks.

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Sulfuric Acid and 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. It's a memorable experiment! More »