Getting Started

A comprehensive course that continues the chemistry adventure from previous years in Chemistry. (Note: If you’re wanting a more in-depth chemistry course (not just lab experiments but additional content including chemistry calculations), then you’ll want to visit our Chemistry Course in the Advanced section. You do not need to complete the program on this page in order to do the Advanced Chemistry Course.)

Students perform advanced experiments with ammonia, learn how to burn sulfur, ignite colored fires, decompose hydrogen peroxide, detonate bubbles, unlock energy stored in chemical bonds, supercool solutions, calculate the energy of a single peanut, turn copper into silver and gold, and so much more.

Here are the scientific concepts:

  • Substances are made from different types of atoms, which combine with one another in various ways. Atoms form molecules that range in size from two to thousands of atoms.
  • Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it.
  • Gases and liquids are made of molecules or inert atoms that are moving about relative to each other.
  • In a liquid, the molecules are constantly in contact with others; in a gas, they are widely spaced except when they happen to collide. In a solid, atoms are closely spaced and may vibrate in position but do not change relative locations.
  • Solids may be formed from molecules, or they may be extended structures with repeating subunits (e.g., crystals).
  • The changes of state that occur with variations in temperature or pressure can be described and predicted using these models of matter.
  • Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants.
  • The term “heat” as used in everyday language refers both to thermal motion (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and radiation (particularly infrared and light). In science, heat is used only for this second meaning; it refers to energy transferred when two objects or systems are at different temperatures.
  • The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present.
  • The total number of each type of atom is conserved, and thus the mass does not change.
  • Some chemical reactions release energy, others store energy.

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Predict the results of an experiment of a simple chemical reaction based on electron states of atoms, trends of the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties. (For example: predict what happens in the reaction of sodium and chlorine, or of carbon and oxygen, or carbon and hydrogen…)
  • Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after they interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
  • Show using a model how the number of atoms doesn’t change in a reaction and therefore mass is conserved.
  • Design an experiment that releases or absorbs thermal energy by a chemical process.
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the length and volume of objects.
  • Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.
  • Construct and interpret graphs from measurements.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Special Science Teleclass: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too! We’re going to be mixing up dinosaur toothpaste, doing experiments with catalysts, discovering the 5 states of matter, and building your own chemistry lab …Continue reading”Special Science Teleclass: Chemistry & Chemical Engineering”
States of Matter
There are three primary states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Solids are the lowest energy form of matter on Earth. Solids are generally tightly packed molecules that are held together in such a way that they can not change their position. The atoms in a solid can wiggle and jiggle (vibrate) but they can …Continue reading”States of Matter”
Ideal Gas Law
Pure substances all behave about the same when they are gases. The Ideal Gas Law relates temperature, pressure, and volume of these gases in one simple statement: PV = nRT where P = pressure, V = volume, T = temperature, n = number of moles, and R is a constant. When temperature increases, pressure and …Continue reading”Ideal Gas Law”
Ammonia Experiments
Ammonia has been used by doctors, farmers, chemists, alchemists, weightlifters, and our families since Roman times. Doctors revive unconscious patients, farmers use it in fertilizer, alchemists tried to use it to make gold, weightlifters sniff it into their lungs to invigorate their respiratory system and clear their heads prior to lifting tremendous loads. At home, …Continue reading”Ammonia Experiments”
Burning Sulfur
This experiment is for advanced students. Brimstone is another name for sulfur, and if you’ve ever smelled it burn…..whoa….I’m telling you ….you will see for yourself in this lab. It is quite a smell, for sure. Sulfur is element #6 on the periodic table. Sulfur is used in fertilizer, black powder, matches, and insecticides. In …Continue reading”Burning Sulfur”
Calibrated Spectrometer
Ever play with a prism? When sunlight strikes the prism, it gets split into a rainbow of colors. Prisms un-mix the light into its different wavelengths (which you see as different colors). Diffraction gratings are tiny prisms stacked together. When light passes through a diffraction grating, it splits (diffracts) the light into several beams traveling …Continue reading”Calibrated Spectrometer”
Can Fish Drown?
If you’ve ever owned a fish tank, you know that you need a filter with a pump. Other than cleaning out the fish poop, why else do you need a filter? (Hint: think about a glass of water next to your bed. Does it taste different the next day?) There are tiny air bubbles trapped …Continue reading”Can Fish Drown?”
Colored Campfires and Rainbows
Always have a FIRE EXTINGUISHER and ADULT HELP handy when performing fire experiments. NO EXCEPTIONS. This video will show you how to transform the color of your flames. For a campfire, simply sprinkle the solids into your flames (make sure they are ground into a fine powder first) and you’ll see a color change. DO …Continue reading”Colored Campfires and Rainbows”
Decomposing Hydrogen Peroxide
This experiment below is for advanced students. If you’ve ever wondered why hydrogen peroxide comes in dark bottles, it’s because the liquid reacts with sunlight to decompose from H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) into H2O (water) and O2 (oxygen). If you uncap the bottle and wait long enough, you’ll eventually get a container of water (although this …Continue reading”Decomposing Hydrogen Peroxide”
Detonating Bubbles
This experiment is for advanced students. Zinc (Zn), is a metal and it is found as element #30 on the periodic table. We need a little zinc to keep our bodies balanced, but too much is very dangerous. Zinc is just like the common, everyday substance that we all know as di-hydrogen monoxide (which is …Continue reading”Detonating Bubbles”
Electricity. Chemistry. Nothing in common, have nothing to do with each other. Wrong! Electrochemistry has been a fact since 1774. Once electricity was applied to particular solutions, changes occurred that scientists of the time did not expect. In this lab, we will discover some of the same things that Farraday found over 300 years ago. …Continue reading”Electrochemistry”
If you guessed that this has to do with electricity and chemistry, you’re right! But you might wonder how they work together. Back in 1800, William Nicholson and Johann Ritter were the first ones to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis.
When an atom (like hydrogen) or molecule (like water) loses an electron (negative charge), it becomes an ion and takes on a positive charge. When an atom (or molecule) gains an electron, it becomes a negative ion. An electrolyte is any substance (like salt) that becomes a conductor of electricity when dissolved in a solvent …Continue reading”Electrolytes”
Energy from Sugar
This experiment is for advanced students. Purple and white colors, making the whitewash that Tom Sawyer used, and produce an exothermic chemical reaction…..does it get any better? Limewater is one of the compounds we work with in this experiment. Limewater was used in the old days of America. We’re talking about the 80’s…..the 1880’s. Traveling …Continue reading”Energy from Sugar”
A ferrofluid becomes strongly magnetized when placed in a magnetic field. This liquid is made up of very tiny (10 nanometers or less) particles coated with anti-clumping surfactants and then mixed with water (or solvents). These particles don’t “settle out” but rather remain suspended in the fluid. The particles themselves are made up of either …Continue reading”Ferrofluid”
Fruit Battery
This experiment shows how a battery works using electrochemistry. The copper electrons are chemically reacting with the lemon juice, which is a weak acid, to form copper ions (cathode, or positive electrode) and bubbles of hydrogen. These copper ions interact with the zinc electrode (negative electrode, or anode) to form zinc ions. The difference in …Continue reading”Fruit Battery”
Generating Oxygen
This experiment is for advanced students. This time we’re going to use a lot of equipment… really break out all the chemistry stuff. We’ll need all this stuff to generate oxygen with potassium permanganate (KMNO4). We will work with this toxic chemical and we will be careful…won’t we?
Getting Air from Water
This experiment is for advanced students. This is a repeat of the experiment: Can Fish Drown? but now we’re going to do this experiment again with your new chemistry glassware. The aquarium looked normal in every way, except for the fish. They were breathing very fast and sinking head first to the bottom of the …Continue reading”Getting Air from Water”
Hot Ice Sculptures
Did you know that supercooled liquids need to heat up in order to freeze into a solid? It’s totally backwards, I know…but it’s true! Here’s the deal: A supercooled liquid is a liquid that you slowly and carefully bring down the temperature below the normal freezing point and still have it be a liquid. We …Continue reading”Hot Ice Sculptures”
Hot Liquids and Cool Solids
Dissolving calcium chloride is highly exothermic, meaning that it gives off a lot of heat when mixed with water (the water can reach up to 140oF, so watch your hands!). The energy released comes from the bond energy of the calcium chloride atoms, and is actually electromagnetic energy. When you combine the calcium chloride and …Continue reading”Hot Liquids and Cool Solids”
How to Get Hydrogen from Zinc
This experiment is for advanced students. Zinc and Hydrogen are important elements for all of us. Zinc (Zn) metal is element #30 on the periodic table. Lack of zinc in our diets will delay growth of our bodies and can kill. Hydrogen gas (H) is element #1 on the periodic table. Hydrogen was discovered in …Continue reading”How to Get Hydrogen from Zinc”
Hydrogen Bromide
WARNING!! THIS EXPERIMENT IS PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS!! (No kidding.) This experiment is for advanced students. We’ve created a video that shows you how to safely do this experiment, although if you’re nervous about doing this one, just watch the video and skip the actual experiment. Bromine is a particularly nasty chemical, so be sure to very …Continue reading”Hydrogen Bromide”
Hydrogen Chlorine Gas
WARNING!! THIS EXPERIMENT IS PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS!! (No kidding.) This experiment is for advanced students. We’ve created a video that shows you how to safely do this experiment, although if you’re nervous about doing this one, just watch the video and skip the actual experiment. The gas you generate with this experiment is lethal in large …Continue reading”Hydrogen Chlorine Gas”
Hydrogen Peroxide
This experiment is for advanced students. In industry, hydrogen peroxide is used in paper making to bleach the pulp before they form it into paper. Biologists, when preparing bones for display, use peroxide to whiten the bones. At home, 3% peroxide combined with ammonium hydroxide is used to give dark-haired people their desired blonde moment. …Continue reading”Hydrogen Peroxide”
Instant Ice
Supercooling a liquid is a really neat way of keeping the liquid a liquid below the freezing temperature. Normally, when you decrease the temperature of water below 32oF, it turns into ice. But if you do it gently and slowly enough, it will stay a liquid, albeit a really cold one! In nature, you’ll find …Continue reading”Instant Ice”
This experiment is for advanced students. In gas form, element #59 is deadly. However, when iodine is in liquid form, it helps heal cuts and scrapes. The iodine molecule occurs in pairs, not as a single atom (many halogens do this, and it’s called a diatomic molecule). It’s hard to find iodine in nature, though …Continue reading”Iodine”
Iodine Clock Reaction
First discovered in 1886 by Hans Heinrich Landolt, the iodine clock reaction is one of the best classical chemical kinetics experiments. Here’s what to expect:  Two clear solutions are mixed. At first there is no visible reaction, but after a short time, the liquid suddenly turns dark blue. Usually, this reaction uses a solution of …Continue reading”Iodine Clock Reaction”
Iodine Rainbow
This is the experiment that your audience will remember from your chemistry magic show. Here’s what happens – you call up six ‘helpers’ and hand each a seemingly empty test tube. Into each test tube, pour a little of the main gold-colored solution, say a few magic words, and their test tubes turn clear, black, …Continue reading”Iodine Rainbow”
Iron Sparklers
This experiment is for advanced students. Sparks flying off in all directions…that’s fun. In this lab, we will show how easy it is to produce those shooting sparks. In a sparkler you buy at the store, the filings used are either iron or aluminum. The filings are placed in a mixture that, when dry, adheres …Continue reading”Iron Sparklers”
Magnesium Battery
Magnesium is one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust. This alkaline earth metal is silvery white, and soft. As you perform this lab, think about why magnesium is used in emergency flares and fireworks. Farmers use it in fertilizers, pharmacists use it in laxatives and antacids, and engineers mix it with aluminum …Continue reading”Magnesium Battery”
Making Chlorine
If we don’t have salt, we die. It’s that simple. The chemical formula for salt is NaCl. Broken down, we have Na (sodium) and Cl (chlorine). Either one of these can be fatal in sufficient quantities. When chemically combined, these two deadly elements become table salt. What once could kill now keeps us alive. Isn’t …Continue reading”Making Chlorine”
Making Copper
In this lab, we’re going to investigate the wonders of electrochemistry. Electrochemistry became a new branch of chemistry in 1832, founded by Michael Faraday. Michael Faraday is considered the “father of electrochemistry”. The knowledge gained from his work has filtered down to this lab. YOU will be like Michael Faraday. I imagined he would have …Continue reading”Making Copper”
Making Sodium Hydroxide
This experiment is for advanced students. Ever use soap? Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is the main component in lye soap. NaOH is mixed with some type of fat (vegetable, pig, cow, etc). Scent can be added for the ‘pretty’ factor and pumice or sand can be added for the manly “You’re coming off my hands and …Continue reading”Making Sodium Hydroxide”
Peanut Energy
This experiment is for advanced students. Did you know that eating a single peanut will power your brain for 30 minutes? The energy in a peanut also produces a large amount of energy when burned in a flame, which can be used to boil water and measure energy. Peanuts are part of the bean family, …Continue reading”Peanut Energy”
Potassium Permanganate
This experiment is for advanced students. Potassium permanganate (KMnO4) in water turns an intense, deep, purple. It is important in the film industry for aging props and clothing to make them look much older than they are. Also, artists use it in bone carving. People who carve antlers and bone use KMnO4 to darken the …Continue reading”Potassium Permanganate”
Spectrometers are used in chemistry and astronomy to measure light. In astronomy, we can find out about distant stars without ever traveling to them, because we can split the incoming light from the stars into their colors (or energies) and “read” what they are made up of (what gases they are burning) and thus determine …Continue reading”Spectrometer”
Stairstep Candles
Fire is a chemical reaction (combustion) involving hot gases and plasma. The three things you need for a flame are oxygen, fuel, and a spark. When the fuel (gaseous wax) and oxygen (from the air) combine in a flame, one of the gases produced is carbon dioxide. Most people think of carbon dioxide as dry …Continue reading”Stairstep Candles”
Turning Copper into Silver into Gold
No kidding! You’ll be able to show your friends this super-cool magic show chemistry trick with very little fuss (once you get the hang of it). This experiment is for advanced students. Before we start, here are a few notes about the setup to keep you safe and your nasal passages intact: The chemicals required …Continue reading”Turning Copper into Silver into Gold”
What is Fire?
What state of matter is fire? Is it a liquid? I get that question a LOT, so let me clarify. The ancient scientists (Greek, Chinese… you name it) thought fire was a fundamental element. Earth, Air Water, and Fire (sometimes Space was added, and the Chinese actually omitted Air and substituted Wood and Metal instead) …Continue reading”What is Fire?”
Zinc Dust
This experiment is for advanced students. Who gets to burn something today? YOU get to burn something today! You will be working with Zinc (Zn). Other labs in this kit allow us to burn metal, but there is a bit of a twist this time. We will be burning a powder. Why a powder instead …Continue reading”Zinc Dust”
Mass is Conserved
A fundamental concept in science is that mass is always conserved. Mass is a measure of how much matter (how many atoms) make up an object. Mass cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form. Materials: paper, lighter or matches with adult help