"Sodium Flower" experiment

How to make flowers grow from pieces of sodium

A chemist is not just a re­searcher, but also a cre­ative per­son­al­i­ty who tru­ly ap­pre­ci­ates beau­ti­ful things. This im­pres­sive and cap­ti­vat­ing ex­per­i­ment shows you how to grow a real chem­i­cal gar­den from “sodi­um flow­ers”!

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • iso­propanol;
  • ethanol;
  • bro­moth­y­mol blue;
  • phe­nolph­thalein;
  • metal­lic sodi­um;
  • glass bowl;
  • beaker;
  • glass rod.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Pour iso­propanol and a lit­tle ethanol into the beaker and stir the so­lu­tion. Sprin­kle the bro­moth­y­mol blue and phe­nolph­thalein in­di­ca­tors into the so­lu­tion. Pour the re­sult­ing in­di­ca­tor mix­ture into a glass bowl and add a few pieces of metal­lic sodi­um on top. Watch as blue-red pat­terns that look like flow­ers ap­pear on the sur­face of the so­lu­tion.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

The sodi­um re­acts with al­co­hols with the for­ma­tion of sodi­um alkox­ides, the so­lu­tions of which have an al­ka­line medi­um. The in­di­ca­tors re­act to a change in acid­i­ty, and turn the mix­ture blue and crim­son. Bro­moth­y­mol blue turns blue, and phe­nolph­thalein turns crim­son. As iso­propanol has quite a high vis­cos­i­ty, the slow dif­fu­sion of the al­ka­li takes place, an in­ter­est­ing ef­fect which caus­es a flow­er to ap­pear.

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

This ex­per­i­ment must be con­duct­ed in pro­tec­tive gloves and glass­es, and safe­ty rules for work­ing with flammable sub­stances must be ob­served. Metal­lic sodi­um ig­nites on con­tact with wa­ter, so it is stored in con­tain­ers un­der a lay­er of kerosene. The left-over pieces of sodi­um that do not re­act should be de­stroyed by dis­solv­ing them in ethanol. Do not flush the sodi­um pieces down the drain.

Warn­ing! Only un­der pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion.