Chemistry Outreach

Matter exhibits chemistry. Chemistry is the study of atoms and molecules, their interactions with each other as well as the properties that arise from this interplay. Chemistry is all around us, in you, in me and in all the products which are on display on the shelves of a super market. Often people associate chemists with Jekyll and Hyde, or Frankenstein. Not all chemicals are bad (see Natural vs Man made). Chemists are also seeking truth in atoms and molecules, in finding out what makes them tick. When the reward for truth becomes more important than the truth itself, somehow goodness and well being for mankind in general seem to become secondary.

The mindmap below (Click on the image to get an enlarged view and to navigate the topics) created using iThoughts for iOS7 lists some of the common chemicals used in households, to elucidate the chemistry that we are all familiar with but may not have paid much attention. I have used resources from RSC education section as well as Wolfram and other search engines.

RSC Outreach

Acids and Bases:
Bicarbonate of soda (NaHCO3) is commonly used in baking cakes as a raising agent. Once in the school kitchen a student asked me how I would distinguish flour from bicarb. I showed the student that when balsamic vinegar (a tea spoon) is added to a pinch of bicarb in a plate, you notice effervescence, which is a test for carbonates.

Alka Seltzer is a tablet which is used for pain relief for heart burns among other uses. When you dissolve it in water, it fizzes naturally. It has citric acid (found in lemon) and bicarb. When acids and bicarb mix, we observe effervescence.

One can use Malt Vinegar or toilet lime scale remover to produce similar effervescence with bicarb. Vinegar is however a weak acid compared to HCl present in lime scale remover (~3M), hence the rate of the reaction would be higher when the concentration of H+ is higher. CO2 produced can be collected using a balloon which is attached over the mouth of a test tube or a conical flask.

Cabbage juice can be used as an indicator to find out the pH range. Filter papers dampened with cabbage juice and air dried, can be used to produce patterns when drops of acid is placed on the filter paper. I did this activity with primary school children and they really enjoyed it.

If you want to know more about hosting mindmaps using dropbox, please visit the iThoughts page.


  1. Acids and Bases
  2. Chemistry world
  3. Behind the scenes at MIT

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