Top 5 Christmas chemical experiments
How to create Christmas mood with a help of chemistry
Christmas is around the corner! Once you decided how to celebrate it and chose perfect gifts for your friends and loved ones, it’s time to think about fun Christmas activities. With just a little effort, these 5 festive experiments will help you decorate the house and fill it with Christmas mood, in no time!
Should you ever – and urgently! – need some artificial snow for your Christmas decoration, and there is none at the nearby stores, here is a trick to make it at home in just 5 minutes.
You will need:
- Diapers (they contain sodium polyacrylate, a chemical compound that effectively absorbs liquid – and that’s exactly what we’ll need for this experiment);
- A glass of water;
- An empty glass or a container.
How to make artificial snow out of a diaper?
- Take diapers and cut them to pour out the contents (sodium polyacrylate granules);
- Pour water into a clean glass (2–3 grams of granules would require about 100 mL of water);
- Watch the substance absorb water and swell, significantly increasing in size and forming “snowflakes.”
The absorbing substance in diapers is sodium polyacrylate, in form of granules. It can absorb tremendous amounts of liquid — up 200–300 times its mass! Water penetrates into polyacrylate granules, and then it takes so much space inside these granules that they have to swell and increase inside turning into “snow.” Precisely what we need for Christmas decoration! Beware, if you take too much water, it will turn into a jelly mass instead of “snow.” Just a note, with time this “snow” may start losing shape as the water gradually leaves the flakes. Yet, you may restore its shape just by adding a bit of water! Store this artificial snow in an air-tight container.
This snow isn’t eatable! Make sure to wash your hands after playing with it.
Snowfall in a bottle
Think you may only enjoy watching a snowfall outside the window? Create your own mini-snowfall in a regular plastic bottle!
For this experiment, you'll need:
- Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) – 70 g;
- Water (H2O);
- An empty plastic bottle;
- A glass or another empty container;
- A pot with hot water (a heated bath).
How to do this experiment at home?
- Pour 70 g of ammonium chloride into a glass (you may take a 500 mL glass);
- Top the glass with water up to a 500 mL mark and mix the contents (the salt won’t dissolve completely, and it’s normal);
- Place the glass into a pot with hot water (by the way, in this case it can be called a heated bath) and water until the salt dissolves completely;
- Quickly pour the hot solution into a bottle and close the cap. Once the solution starts to cool down, you’ll see a beautiful snowfall — salt crystals will precipitate out and fall down in the bottle, just like little snowflakes.
How does this snowfall in the bottle work?
How much substance can be dissolved in one glass of water? It really depends on the properties of this substance and the temperature of water we are dissolving it in. Here, we want to dissolve more ammonium chloride than it is possible at a room temperature, therefore, we have to heat the solution. And it dissolves completely, in a matter of minutes! Yet, as soon as the solution starts cooling down, all the excessive ammonium chloride has to precipitate out — it falls to the bottom in form of nice tiny crystals. And it looks like a real snowfall!
Christmas tree decoration
Chemistry can make you a real magician! For instance, you can create sparkling Christmas tree ornaments that will look no cheaper than the ones from a store!
In order to make Christmas tree decoration, you’ll need:
- Silver nitrate (AgNO3) – 0.5 g AgNO3 in 100 mL of water;
- Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) – 0.5 g NaOH in 100 mL of water;
- Ammonia solution (3%) (NH3*H2O) – 5 mL;
- Glucose (C6H12O6) – 0.15 g of glucose in 30 mL of water;
- Glass flask or bottle;
- For decoration: a ribbon and a short fir tree brunch;
- A pipette.
How to make a sparkling Christmas tree decoration at home?
- Take a glass flask — it will serve as a base for our Christmas decoration;
- Pour a solution of silver nitrate into the flask. Drop by drop, add there sodium hydroxide solution — it will form a brown precipitate;
- Drop by drop, add ammonia to the flask — it should dissolve the precipitate;
- At once, pour out all the glucose solution into the flask and shake it vigorously for 3–5 minutes until you see a shiny silvery film forming on the walls of the flask;
- Pour the solution out of the flask. Rinse the flask with water several times;
- Add a ribbon and a fir tree branch to the flask to finish the decoration. Done and done!
Where does a silvery film in the flask come from?
First, we synthesize silver(I) oxide (the brown precipitate) and then dissolve it in ammonia. It yields the target substance – silver diamine hydroxide [Ag(NH₃)₂]OH – needed to create a mirror-like film. Further, we add glucose to reduce silver. The latter precipitates out and forms a beautiful shiny coating.
Make sure to wear protective gloves when conducting this experiment.
In order to make a silver tree, you’ll need:
- A copper tree (copper plates folder into a Christmas tree figure);
- AgNO3 solution (0.5 g of AgNO3 in 100 mL of water);
- A beaker.
How to make a silver Christmas tree:
- Set the copper tree in the beaker;
- Pour the solution of silver nitrate into the beaker to completely cover the tree;
- Wait for several minutes — you’ll see silver crystals appear on the copper tree, and the solution will gradually turn light-blue.
How does silver coat the copper tree?
Once copper is added to the solution of silver nitrate, it causes a substitution reaction. Speaking chemistry language, it goes as follows: 2AgNO3 + Cu = Cu(NO3)2 + 2Ag. Silver and copper swap places: copper moves into the solution, and silver precipitates out in form of metal. And the solution turns light-blue due to formation of copper(II) nitrate – copper ions tint the solution blue.
Make sure to wear protective gloves when conducting this experiment.
Most likely you’ve seen Christmas tree ornaments that are decorated with frostwork-like patterns. You, too, can easily draw your own icy patterns on any piece of glass!
- Carbamide, or urea ((NH2)2CO) – 300 g;
- Water (H2O) – 50 mL;
- A glass;
- A small piece of glass;
- A paintbrush.
How to create patterns on a glass using carbamide?
- Pour 300 g of carbamide into a glass, add 50 mL of hot water and thoroughly mix them together (carbamide will start dissolving in water, but it won’t dissolve completely because there is too much of it);
- Dip a paintbrush into the obtained solution:
- Take a piece of glass and make several strokes with the paintbrush to apply the solution onto the glass;
- Wait for several minutes — soon you’ll see frostwork patterns appearing on the glass!
Where do these “frostwork” patterns come from?
Carbamide readily dissolves in cold water, and it does so even better in hot water. If you take a hot carbamide solution and deposit a little bit on a piece of glass, it will form whimsical crystals. Once the solution starts to cool down on the glass, carbamide has no choice but to crystallize because water becomes too cood for all the carbamide to stay dissolved. Needle-like crystals grow on the wet glass surface, creating unique and strange patterns. They look like real frostwork!
Make sure to wear protective gloves when conducting this experiment. Obtained frostwork pattern is easy to remove from the glass – simply rinse it with water.