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How To Create an Exothermic Chemical Reaction

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Exothermic chemical reactions produce heat. In this reaction vinegar is used to remove the protective coating from steel wool, allowing it to rust. When the iron combines with oxygen, heat is released.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Place the thermometer in the jar and close the lid. Allow about 5 minutes for the thermometer to record the temperature, then open the lid and read the thermometer.
  2. Remove the thermometer from the jar (if you didn't already in Step 1).
  3. Soak a piece of steel wool in vinegar for 1 minute.
  4. Squeeze the excess vinegar out of the steel wool.
  5. Wrap the wool aroung the thermometer and place the wool/thermometer in the jar, sealing the lid.
  6. Allow 5 minutes, then read the temperature and compare it with the first reading.
  7. Chemistry is Fun!

Tips:

  1. Not only does the vinegar remove the protective coating on the steel wool, but once the coating is off its acidity aids in oxidation (rust) of the iron in the steel.
  2. The thermal energy given off during this chemical reaction causes the mercury in the thermometer to expand and rise up the column of the thermometer tube.
  3. In the rusting of iron, four atoms of solid iron react with three molecules of oxygen gas to form two molecules of solid rust (iron oxide).

What You Need

  • Thermometer
  • Jar with Lid
  • Steel Wool
  • Vinegar
Related Video
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How to Balance Chemistry Equations

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