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CAGIS Clubhouse

Elephant Toothpaste and Chemical Reactions

Saturday, May 8, 2021

How do elephants keep cool in the summer?  EAR-conditioning!  

How do you know if there’s an elephant in your refrigerator?  Footprints in the pizza!
How do elephants brush their teeth?  Let’s have a chemist answer that one…

In this session, we’ll be whipping up our own batches of colourful elephant toothpaste. It’s not really meant for brushing your teeth.  Rather, it is an impressive chemical reaction that creates a foaming substance that just looks like a gigantic squirt of toothpaste.  But why does it happen so quickly and dramatically?  All thanks to the catalyst.  In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that speeds up a reaction, making it occur up to millions of times faster!   Catalysts are used everywhere — in food production, washing clothes, and even within our own cells!  Let’s learn more together about why chemists LOVE catalysts.
Preparation: empty plastic bottle or jar, baking yeast, warm water, liquid dish detergent, 3% or higher hydrogen peroxide, measuring cups/spoons, large tub or tray to catch the foam, liquid food colouring. Safety glasses or sunglasses recommended. Caution: This activity can produce a surprising amount of foam! Make sure you set up your workspace accordingly, and ensure your computer/device will not get wet.
Expert: Dr. Erin McConnell, completed her PhD in Chemistry at Carleton University, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, where she received the NSERC and L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award.

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