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|Dr. Skip's Corner: K-12 Teaching Adventures @ OSU Engineering|
Kitchen Chemistry: The Chemical Reaction Powered Car
Dr. Skip Rochefort, Ellen Momsen, and Jason Hower
Because there are several "car competitions" happening in March, we decided to feature our own "Chemical Reaction Powered Car" project for all ages. The Chem-E Car Competition is one of those national student competitions sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers that we have been involved with since its inception about six years ago. We have used "variations on this theme" as an engineering design problem with my Freshman Chemical Engineering Students, high school students, and with 1st grade students. The 1st graders have performed the best...by far!
The concepts involved are: kitchen chemistry (baking soda and vinegar) for the chemical reaction; chemical reactions producing phase changes (gases, liquids, and solids); propulsion; and most importantly engineering design and re-design. We can tell you from personal experience that 1st graders will do design but they will NOT do "re-design." They prefer "destroy and build again"! But (we hope) they do learn from their first designs .
This can be done at home or in the classroom in as much detail (time) as you would like to spend. This is definitely an inquiry-based experiment, and our experience is that the combination of engineering design/build and chemistry makes it attractive to girls and boys of all ages. Have FUN with it!
|Project Objective:||Students will design a car that is powered solely by a chemical reaction and can travel 25 feet.||
|Car Design:||K'NEX™ or LEGO™ kits and medium size (approx. 750ml) plastic water bottles.|
The cars are powered by Kitchen Chemistry:
The above equations are all representations of the same reaction. It is important to note that for a complete reaction the molar ratio of acetic acid to sodium bicarbonate must be kept constant.
Ingredients: Kitchen Chemistry at its Best!
The third equation above shows the balanced form of the reaction. As noted, the reaction requires one mole of acetic acid and one mole of baking soda to produce one mole of carbon dioxide gas. A mole is a unit like a dozen, a dozen is 12 things and a mole is 602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 things. For comparison a mole of donut holes would cover the earth and be 5 miles deep. However, a mole of molecules can be a reasonable amount. One mole of water is only 18 ml. Moles are used in chemistry because it allows comparisons to be made regardless of phase or measurement units.
Our goal in this experiment will be to always use excess vinegar to help make sure all the baking soda is dissolved and reacted. Once we understand the chemistry, we will attempt different chemical ratios to produce enough gas to drive our cars approximately 25 feet.
While the exact details of this experiment are quite open, a general procedure is outlined below. Prior to building the cars, it is a good idea to develop an understanding for how much gas will be produced. Thus the procedure is broken into three sections: gas production, car construction, and car operation (distance traveled).
Gas Production (plastic bottle chemistry)