Top Amazing Chemical Reactions




Chemical reactions are part of our daily lives. From cooking in the kitchen, to driving a car, these reactions are commonplace. This list is aimed at some of the more exotic and amazing reactions that most of us have not seen or experienced. My knowledge of science is limited, so if I have made a blunder in my descriptions, please let me know so that I can correct them! Here are the top amazing chemical reactions.


Thermite and Ice

The thermite reaction is one of the more spectacular chemical reactions you can try. You're basically burning metal, except much more quickly than the usual rate of oxidation. It's an easy reaction to perform, with practical applications (e.g., welding). What happens if you perform the thermite reaction on a block of ice? You get a spectacular explosion! Don't be afraid to try it, but do use proper safety precautions since the reaction is highly exothermic and can be dangerous.


Colored Fire Rainbow

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. Basically, what you need are chemicals for each of the colors, plus a fuel. Use a fuel that burns with a clean blue flame. Good choices include rubbing alcohol, 151 rum, hand sanitizer made with alcohol, lighter fluid, or alcohol fuel treatment. You can get a rainbow effect by placing chemicals on burning wood or paper, but sodium in these fuels produces a strongly yellow flame, which tends to overpower the other colors.


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.


Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Clock

The Briggs-Rauscher reaction, also known as 'the oscillating clock', is one of the most common demonstrations of a chemical oscillator reaction. The reaction begins when three colorless solutions are mixed together. The color of the resulting mixture will oscillate between clear, amber, and deep blue for about 3-5 minutes. The solution ends up as a blue-black mixture.


Hot Ice or Sodium Acetate

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.


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.


Sugar Snake

One of the most spectacular chemistry demonstrations is also one of the simplest. It's the dehydration of sugar (sucrose) with sulfuric acid. Basically, all you do to perform this demonstration is put ordinary table sugar in a glass beaker and stir in some concentrated sulfuric acid (you can dampen the sugar with a small volume of water before adding the sulfuric acid). The sulfuric acid removes water from the sugar in a highly exothermic reaction, releasing heat, steam, and sulfur oxide fumes. Aside from the sulfurous odor, the reaction smells a lot like caramel. The white sugar turns into a black carbonized tube that pushes itself out of the beaker. Here's a nice youtube video for you, if you'd like to see what to expect.


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.


Supercool Water

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.


Elephant Toothpaste Reaction

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!


Author: Anne Marie Helmenstine

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