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10 Amazing Chemical Reactions

Cool Chemistry in Action

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Here are 10 amazing and cool chemical reactions. If you're lucky, you can try these chemical reactions in a lab or see them performed as demonstrations. If not, there are incredible videos that show what happens!

1. Thermite and Ice

Thermite reaction between aluminum and ferric oxide.
CaesiumFluoride, Wikipedia Commons
The thermite reaction basically is an example of what happens when metal burns. What happens if you perform the thermite reaction on a block of ice? You get a spectacular explosion! The reaction is so stupendous that the Mythbusters team tested it and verified it was real.

Watch the YouTube Video that Got Mythbusters Interested
Perform the Thermite Reaction (with or without ice)

2. Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Clock

This is a flask of blue liquid.
Medioimages/Photodisc, Getty Images
This chemical reaction is amazing because it involves a cyclic color change. A colorless solution cycles through clear, amber, and deep blue for several minutes.

Make a Color Change Clock
Watch a Real Time Video of the Reaction

3. Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate

This is a crystal of sodium acetate trihydrate or hot ice.
Henry Mühlfpordt
Sodium acetate is a chemical that can be supercooled. This means it can remain a liquid below its normal freezing point. The amazing part of this reaction is initiating crystallization. Pour supercooled sodium acetate onto a surface and it will solidify as you watch, forming towers and other interesting shapes. The chemical also is known as 'hot ice' because the crystallization occurs at room temperature, producing crystals that resemble ice cubes.

Make Hot Ice from Baking Soda and Vinegar
Watch Hot Ice in Action

4. Magnesium and Dry Ice Reaction

When ignited, magnesium produces a very bright light. It's why handheld sparkler fireworks are so brilliant. While you may think fire requires oxygen, this reaction demonstrates carbon dioxide and magnesium participate in a displacement reaction that produces fire without oxygen gas. When you light magnesium inside a block of dry ice, you get brilliant light.

See What Happens

5. Dancing Gummi Bear Reaction

The Dancing Gummi Bear is a reaction between sugar and potassium chlorate, producing violet fire and a lot of heat. It's an excellent introduction to the art of pyrotechnics because sugar and potassium chlorate are representative of a fuel and oxidizer, such as you might find in fireworks. There's nothing magical about the Gummi Bear. You can use any candy to supply the sugar. Depending on how you perform the reaction, you may get more of an immolation than a bear tango. It's all good.

Try the Dancing Gummi Bear Reaction
Watch the Chemical Reaction

6. Colored Fire Rainbow

The rainbow of colored fire was made using common household chemicals to color the flames.
Anne Helmenstine
When metal salts are heated, the ions emit various colors of light. If you heat the metals in a flame, you get colored fire. While you can't simply mix different metals together to get a rainbow fire effect, if you line them up in a row, you can get all the colored flames.

Make Your Own Fire Rainbow
Watch a Colored Fire Rainbow

7. Sodium and Chlorine Reaction

Sodium and chlorine react to form sodium chloride or table salt. Sodium metal and chlorine gas don't do much on their own until a drop of water is added to get things going. This is an extremely exothermic reaction that generates a lot of heat and light.

See the Reaction

8. Elephant Toothpaste Reaction

The elephant toothpaste demo is an exothermic chemical reaction.
Anne Helmenstine at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry
The elephant toothpaste reaction is the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, catalyzed by the iodide ion. The reaction produces a ton of hot, steamy foam, plus it can be colored or even striped to resemble certain toothpastes. Why is it called the 'elephant toothpaste reaction'? Only an elephant tusk needs a strip of toothpaste as wide as the one produced by this amazing reaction!

Perform the Elephant Toothpaste Reaction
See the Elephant Toothpaste Video

9. Supercool Water

If you disturb water that has been supercooled, it will suddenly crystallize into ice.
Vi..Cult..., Creative Commons License
If you chill water below its freezing point, it doesn't always freeze. Sometimes it supercools, which allows you to make it freeze on command. Aside from looking very cool, the crystallization of supercooled water into ice is a great reaction because just about anyone can obtain a bottle of water to try it out for themselves.

Supercool Water Yourself
See What You Can Do With It

10. Sugar Snake

Mixing sugar (sucrose) with sulfuric acid produces carbon and steam. However, the sugar doesn't simply blacken! The carbon forms a steaming tower that pushes itself out of a beaker or glass, resembling a black snake. The reaction smells like burnt sugar, too.

Perform the Sugar Snake Reaction
See the Sugar Snake in Action

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