Chemistry Club spreads energy awareness through hands-on demonstrations during National Chemistry Week

Chemistry Club president Mike Meyers watches as a club member recrystallizes a super-saturated solution Photo by Theresa San Luis

The SIUE Chemistry Club featured a variety of demonstrations last week during National Chemistry Week in which participants learned about battery power running off saltwater, observed materials with different heat conductivities and viewed an example of catalysis.

Chemistry professor Sarah Luesse, the club’s advisor, said the goal was to promote awareness and knowledge of this year’s theme – Energy-Now and Forever – through demonstrations showing a range of concepts related to energy.

“The goal of our club is to share an awareness of the role of chemistry in our everyday lives,” Luesse said. “We want to help educate the SIUE community about energy and general concept of chemistry.”

National Chemistry Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Chemical Society.  The SIUE club activities were held at the Morris University Center.

Senior chemistry major and club president Mike Meyers pointed to nails connected to a wire sitting in an ice cube container of saltwater, which served as a battery, and said energy is an important concept for everyone to understand.

“It’s just a way to show a form of energy in terms of chemistry,” Meyers said. “Energy is an important concept for everyday life.”

Junior chemistry major and club member Amy Dredge demonstrated how even putting a pen that she touched transferred body heat to the thermochromic square, which resulted in color changes, like that of a mood ring.

Participants were able to look through cardboard prism glasses at an emission spectrum of hydrogen that is created when a glass tube containing hydrogen gas at low pressure gives off blue light. However, according to Dredge, when the lit hydrogen bulb is observed through a prism (the glasses), four narrow bands of bright light are observed.

“What you see is a small part of the hydrogen emission spectrum,” Dredge said.

SIUE Chemistry Club members tested out prism glasses to view an emission spectrum of hydrogen from a glass tube containing hyrdrogen Photo by Theresa San Luis

Another experiment, Amazing Ice Melting Blocks, involved two materials at room temperature. The aluminum plate feels cold to the touch, and the plastic plate feels warmer. In actuality, the ice melts faster on the aluminum plate, due to the material having high heat conductivity.

Sophomore pre-pharmacy major and chemistry club member Erika Kuenstler said the event allows people to learn about chemistry.

“I think it shows all different aspects of chemistry so that people who may not get to know about it can learn,” Kuenstler said.

The SIUE Solar Car Racing Team was also on hand to display some of the components they build on-campus to power their car by solar energy.

Meyers said he thinks chemistry and the event are wonderful.

“The club has been doing it for quite a few years now. The point of us doing chemistry week is showing how lives can be improved through chemistry… to create demos about how chemistry could be used,” Meyers said.

The theme of next year’s National Chemistry Week (October 19-25, 2014) is “The Sweet Side of Chemistry – Candy.”


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