Fire Piston

Description:  Fire pistons have been used for hundreds of years as a fire starter. Tinder is place in a seal tube and a piston is rapidly pushed into the tube. The air is compressed increasing the pressure and temperature until the ignition point of the tinder is reached. A diesel engine works in a similar fashion. This phenomenon can be used to introduce the particle model of air and temperature as a measure of the kinetic energy of particles.

Web Resource:  Fire piston - Wikipedia


Ice-cutting Experiment

Description:  In this experiment, by Derek Muller at Veritasium, a copper wire and fishing string are attached to weights and placed over a block of ice. An increase in pressure causes the ices to melt below the wire and freeze after. The difference in behavior of the wire and the string are related to the material since metal is a better thermal conductor of heat. This phenomenon can be used in a unit on the particle model and state change. It can also be used to compare the thermal conductivity of different materials.

Web Resources:  Regelation, Wikipedia, Thermal conductivity - Wikipedia


Supercooled Water

Description:  Supercooling occurs when the temperature of a liquid is lowered below the freezing point without forming a solid. In the case of water it needs a seed crystal or a nucleation site to start forming ice. If the water has been filtered through reverse osmosis or chemical demineralization it can be safely cooled below the freezing point. Simply shaking the bottle forms solid ice.

Web Resource:  Supercooling - Wikpedia

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Aerogels - World’s Lightest Solids

Description:  Aerogels are a group of synthetic materials that are incredibly light and also amazing insulators. They have numerous applications such as insulators in electronics. Aerogels were used as thermal insulators in the Mars Rover and also act to filter space dust. This phenomenon could be used as an application of chemical engineering or as an example of a thermal insulators.

Web Resource: Aerogel - Wikipedia


The Collapsing Train Car

Description:  The collapsing train car can be used as an anchoring phenomenon on a unit related to the structure and properties of matter. The macroscopic implosion is caused by a decrease in pressure within the train car and air pressure crushing the car. To fully understand this phenomenon students must understand what is going on at the microscopic level. This phenomenon can be demonstrated at a smaller scale in the lab using an empty soda pop can (containing a small amount of water) that is heated and then inverted in water.



Ice Cube Spikes

Description:  Ice cube spikes form when the exterior of the ice cube freezes first and the expanding water from the inside is forced out through a small hole or weak spot in the exterior. The phenomenon can be used to show the reversible change of freezing in elementary or the intermolecular forces between molecules in high school chemistry.

Web Resource: Spikes on Ice Cubes


Coupled Pendulum

Description:  The coupled pendulum can be created with either string or a spring connecting the two pendulums. With each swing energy is transferred from one pendulum to the other. If the pendulums both have the same length one pendulum comes to a complete stop before alternating motion. This phenomenon can be used to show balanced and unbalanced forces, how motion can be used to predict future motion, and the conservation of energy.

Web Resource:  L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum


Magnetic Cannon

Description:  The magnetic cannon contains four spaced neodymium magnets in a channel.  Two balls bearings are placed between each ball bearing.  When a new ball bearing is introduced a transfer of energy occurs and the final ball bearing leaves with a higher initial velocity than the first.  This is a great phenomenon for studying transfer of momentum and the energy of an object based on its position within a magnetic field.

Web Resource:  Magnetic Challenge with Bozeman Science


Limiting Reactant

Description:  In this phenomenon both magnesium metal and hydrochloric acid are limiting reactants.  I have used this in a chemistry class, framing it as "The Case of the Mixed Up Masses".  I tell them that I added varying amounts of magnesium metal but I forgot to label the flasks.  If done correctly they should get the curve seen below.  I learned about this on the NSTA Resource page.  

Web Resource:  NSTA Stoichiometry Balloon Race