Solids, Liquids, Gases


Nitrogen From Fertilizers: Too Much of a Good Thing
April 2010 (pp 5–7)

Author: Beth Nolte

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Describes the nitrogen cycle and the role of excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers in polluting the environment. The chemistry of nitrogen, ammonia, oxides of nitrogen and nitrates are emphasized. Suggests that changes in farming methods can ameliorate the environmental effects. Includes sidebars on organic farming and the Haber-Bosch method of producing ammonia.

>Back to Top

Anesthesia: Chemistry in the Operating Room
February 2010 (pp 8–9)

Author: Claudia M. Caruana

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Organic/Biochemistry, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Describes and explains the way in which general and local inhaled anesthetics work in the human body. Provides the reader with some history of anesthesia—from 4200 BC to the present day—including nitrous oxide, ether and modern inhalation anesthetics, halogenated ethers. Discusses some biochemical mechanisms suggested to explain the effect of an anesthetic on the nervous system, although it also states the lack of a precise medical/scientific understanding of how anesthetics work.

>Back to Top

Hollywood’s Special Effects—How Did They Do That?
December 2009 (pp 5–8)

Author: Diana Lutz

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: Describes how various special effects are created for movies, including fake snow, fake skin, fire and explosions. Some chemistry is detailed to explain how the materials are produced.

>Back to Top

Space Food
December 2009 (pp 11–13)

Author: Diana Lutz

Chemistry Connections: Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Various techniques for preserving food for astronauts detailed including freeze-drying, thermostabilizing and irradiating. Goal to eliminate bacteria and water. Water for rehydration from fuel cell chemical reaction.

>Back to Top

Letting Off Steam
April 2009 (pp 4–7)

Author: Carolyn Ruth

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Information on the mechanics of geyser and hot spring formations that include deep earth heating of water which dissolves various molten rock (magma) minerals (silicon dioxide, calcium carbonate) that is brought to the surface to form solidified deposits. Other chemicals in an eruption include mercury, arsenic, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Last page includes two student activities: making a volcano with soap, baking soda and vinegar, and boiling water at various temperatures with a vacuum filtration flask and a faucet with a suction filtration attachment.

>Back to Top

Bringing Chemistry to the Kitchen
February 2009 (pp 10–12)

Author: Patrice Pages

Chemistry Connections: Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Experimental cooking based on some understanding of chemistry and physics but primarily experimental using new physical forms of ingredients in the mix. Influence of color on taste perception studied; good taste influences amount eaten (savoring means less eaten)

>Back to Top

Hindenburg: Formula for Disaster
December 2007 (pp 8–10)

Author: Tim Graham

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: Details the story of the burning of the Hindenburg with emphasis on the structure of the ship and the hydrogen used to keep it afloat. Examines the causes, actual or theorized, for the event. One theory, the incendiary paint theory, is described in detail. The theory suggests that the sealant that coated the Hindenburg was made of iron (II) oxide, aluminum and cellulose acetate—all flammable chemicals and this the root cause of the fire, not hydrogen. Examines film of the fire and emphasizes reaction rates in discussing the theories.

>Back to Top

Paintball: Chemistry Hits Its Mark
April 2007 (pp 4–7)

Author: Brian Rohrig

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Describes the three major components of a paintball system—the gels that comprise the paintball shell, the liquid paint inside and the carbon dioxide propellant. Explains water solubility issues with paint, which is composed of polyethylene glycol, and shell. Emphasizes hydrogen bonding and the polarity of molecules. CO2 propellant explanation relies on pressure and vapor pressure equilibrium.

>Back to Top

NASCAR: Chemistry on the Fast Track
February 2007 (pp 4–7)

Author: Brian Rohrig

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: Describes the chemicals that make up NASCAR racing cars, from Lexan windshields, to Kevlar and NOMEX driver’s helmets, to the elastomer bladder lining the fuel tank. Also describes the structure of the engine and the combustion process used to power the cars. Special attention is given to methanol as the fuel and to octane ratings for fuels. Tires, rubber and traction round out the article.

>Back to Top

Unusual Sunken Treasure
December 2006 (pp 11–13)

Author: Tim Graham

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Organic/Biochemistry, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Raising a Norwegian sunken ship (torpedo, 1916) full of champagne requires understanding of the gas laws—effect of temperature, pressure on dissolved carbon dioxide in champagne. Asides on fermentation, processing champagne, what produces the fine bubbles.

>Back to Top

Glass: More Than Meets the Eye
October 2006 (pp 4–8)

Author: Brian Rohrig

Chemistry Connections: Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Details the physical and chemical tests used at crime scenes for analyzing glass. Includes density, chemical composition, chemical changes, and type of fracture. Two student activities are included: Disappearing glass with glycerol and water, and Forensic Identification of Glass, with isopropanol and water.

>Back to Top

Salting Roads: The Solution for Winter Driving
February 2006 (pp 14–16)

Author: Doris Kimbrough

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions, Thermochemistry

Description: Discusses freezing point depression and ions, compares salt to other de-icers in terms of number of particles formed when they dissolve. Also shows phase diagram for salt-water mixture. Describes new technology that also addresses highway safety in wintry conditions.

>Back to Top

Einstein’s Miraculous Year
December 2005 (pp 4–6)

Author: Doris Kimbrough

Chemistry Connections: Atomic Theory, History/Biography, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Discusses three main problems tackled by Einstein in 1905: photoelectric effect, the nature of atomic structure, and the space-time continuum. Photoelectric effect: describes light as electromagnetic waves, and states that frequency, not intensity determines if electrons are ejected when light shines on a metal, and higher frequency means faster electrons ejected. Einstein’s answer: think of light as a particle (photon) here, not a wave. Atomic theory: Einstein explained Brownian motion as the motion of atoms and molecules bumping into each other, and calculated the size of atoms based on his observations, cementing the idea of atoms for doubting scientists. Special theory of relativity: Einstein showed that time and space are relative, depending on the frame of reference of the observer. Diagram illustrates photoelectric effect.

>Back to Top

ChemSumer: Liquid Crystal Displays
October 2005 (pp 6–9)

Author: Lois Fruen

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Organic/Biochemistry, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Talks about electronic games and other electronic devices that use liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Describes what liquid crystals are—long polar organic molecules, how they work—they align themselves in an electric field, but not too tightly, and polarizing films and polarized light—the process by which liquid crystals are able to transmit (or not) light. Discusses twisted nematic liquid crystals and color display screens, as well as the future of LCDs. Also includes a sidebar on plasma display screens, which use phosphorescent cells containing noble gases that emit ultraviolet light when excited by electricity, subsequently exciting the electrons in the phosphors to emit visible light.

>Back to Top

The Amazing Drinking Bird!
October 2005 (pp 10–11)

Author: Brian Rohrig

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Equilibrium, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: Describes what a drinking bird is and how it works. Explains the science behind the bird’s actions: evaporation of water cooling the top glass bulb, which lowers vapor pressure; greater vapor pressure at the bottom forces liquid up the tube until bird gets top-heavy and tips; liquid empties from tube, allowing pressure in two bulbs to equalize; process begins anew. Sidebar provides 5 additional experiments (extensions) to try with drinking birds.

>Back to Top

Kitty Litter Chem
October 2005 (pp 12–14)

Author: Amanda Yarnell

Chemistry Connections: Acids/Bases, Bonding, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Discusses the relatively short history of cat litter (<60 years) and the four main types of cat litter—Fuller’s earth, bentonite (Montmorillonite), silica gels and plant-derived materials like Swheat Scoop. Talks about the chemistry of each type, including odor control (by protonation of NH3 to NH4+, absorbents, fragrances and antibacterial agents) and clumping of clays (absorption of water between layers of clay, causing swelling of the clay). Molecular models of Montmorillonite before and after the addition of water are shown.

>Back to Top

The Secret of Slime
December 2004 (pp 13–16)

Author: Brian Rohrig

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Compares Newtonian fluids and their viscosity with the viscosity of slime, a non-Newtonian fluid. Relates viscosity and temperature and reviews how to test viscosity. Discusses how “shear stress” can alter the viscosity of non-Newtonian fluids like slime either by making them more viscous or less viscous. Examples of shear stress include squeezing, stirring, agitating, or applying mechanical pressure to the surface of a fluid. Explains that slime is a polymer. Includes lesson plan for making slime.

>Back to Top

ChemHistory: Cleopatra's Perfume Factory and Day Spa
October 2004 (pp 13–15)

Author: Lois Fruen

Chemistry Connections: Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Solutions

Description: Describes Cleopatra’s contributions to skin care treatments, which she developed at the spa and perfume factory given to her by Mark Anthony. The article notes the chemicals that were used in these ancient treatments and describes how modern chemistry has confirmed their composition by modern analysis. A sampling of ancient substances includes tar or pitch, salt, moringa oil, horseradish oil, olive oil and henna. The article lists modern chemicals that were present in some of Cleo’s formulations—indoles, amines, copper (II) carbonate, lead (II) sulfide and lead carbonate. The latter two compounds do not occur naturally, and the article describes the way in which the Egyptians synthesized them.

>Back to Top

ChemHistory: Coal Mine Safety
February 2004 (pp 17–19)

Author: Harvey Black

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Describes the formation of coal from organic matter and outlines how important coal has been as still is to the United States, noting its importance in the production of electricity. Second help of the article focuses on the risks and dangers of mining and using coal. Among them are pollutants like mercury and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen created by coal combustion, mine wastes like acid mine drainage, black-lung disease in miners and the risk of explosions in working mines as a result of methane buildup and coal dust.

>Back to Top

Whose Air Is It Anyway?
October 2003 (pp 6–8)

Author: Jeannie Allen

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Sustainability

Description: Describes composition of atmosphere—chemical, biological and circulation throughout the world. Ozone issue studied through satellites. Student experiment tracks atmospheric transport of fungal spores through smoke.

>Back to Top

Alien Atmospheres: There’s No Place like Home
October 2003 (pp 9–11)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Compares atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars. Chart summarizes chemical and physical characteristics of the three planets. Explains physical characteristics (temperature, surface erosion) because of different chemical compositions of the three atmospheres.

>Back to Top

Clouds
October 2003 (pp 12–15)

Author: Anne Rosenthal

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Equilibrium, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Explains how clouds form from water vapor condensing around microscopic particles (condensation nuclei) from sea salt, engine exhausts, smoke, soil, meteoritic dust. Use idea to “seed” clouds for rain production, fog dissipation. Different cloud types described—origins, reflectivity, infrared, UV and ozone, weather effects.

>Back to Top

Activity: Cloud in a Bottle
October 2003 (pp 16–17)

Author: Bob Becker

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: This activity description details how to create clouds in a soda bottle through phase changes and the factors responsible for the creation—condensation of water vapor through pressure changes that create a temperature change.

>Back to Top

Chemistry in the Sunlight
October 2003 (pp 22–24)

Author: Jeannie Allen

Chemistry Connections: Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Thermochemistry

Description: Positive and negative effects of ozone in our atmosphere—blocking UV radiation, negatively affecting biological tissue. Sources of ozone—volcanoes, burning fossil fuels. Additional “pollutants” (volatile organic compounds, VOC, and nitrogen oxides, NOx) and their effects are described.

>Back to Top

Beefing Up Atmospheric Models
October 2003 (pp 25–28)

Author: Kevin McCue

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Use of supercomputers to develop mathematical models of the atmosphere and weather patterns to forecast weather. Need data input from a variety of atmospheric parameters including emissions, deposition, transport, and chemical interactions of various gaseous components of the atmosphere. Short term and
long-term predictions of changing weather conditions have different limitations.

>Back to Top

Spectroscopy—Sensing the Unseen
September 2001 (pp 4–6)

Author: Steve Miller

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Explores spectroscopy as a remote sensing tool on satellites used to study the atmosphere. Briefly explains the wave and particle nature of light. Sidebar describes the electromagnetic spectrum. Explains how scientists can determine compounds in the atmosphere by interpreting patterns of light absorption and scattering in a spectrometer and explains the workings of a spectrometer. Describes the use of several types of spectrometers in the EOS Aura satellite.

>Back to Top

Ozone—Molecule With a Split Personality
September 2001 (pp 7–9)

Author: Doris Kimbrough

Chemistry Connections: Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Profiles ozone and compares its role in the stratosphere as an UV radiation absorber and in the troposphere as a pollutant. Stresses the fact that ozone is ozone, but its effects depend on where it is found in the atmosphere. Explains the chemistry of ozone formation. Details the impact of stratospheric ozone depletion on human health and plant and animal life.

>Back to Top

Carbon Dioxide—A Pourable Greenhouse Gas
September 2001 (pp 10–11)

Author: Bob Becker

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Gives a detailed procedure for a classroom lab activity to study the properties of carbon dioxide gas. Includes a discussion of results and answers to questions poised in the procedure.

>Back to Top

Asthma—Attack From the Air
September 2001 (pp 12–13)

Author: Helen Herlocker

Chemistry Connections: Organic/Biochemistry, Solids/Liquids/Gases

Description: Provides a look at the causes, mechanism and effects of asthma with an emphasis on its effect on teenagers. Points to various allergens like pollen, pollution, dust, molds and second-hand cigarette smoke as the basic causes. Colds, flu and other infections may also be causes. Emphasizes the strong link between air pollution and asthma. Lists some of the atmospheric chemicals that can act as asthma-causing triggers—sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), ground-level ozone (O3) and particulates.

>Back to Top

Global Warming—Hot Topic Getting Hotter
September 2001 (pp 14–15)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases, Sustainability

Description: Introduces the debate over the reality of global warming and presents evidence to support the idea. Connects global warming to greenhouse gases and explains how gases like carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, tropospheric ozone and chlorofluorocarbons can trap radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. Cites examples of human activity that contribute to greenhouse gases. Concludes by describing computer modeling that is being used to predict the effects of global warming.

>Back to Top

For more free articles and teacher’s guides, see the ChemMatters archive

Also available on CD: All past ChemMatters articles dating back to February 1983!