Mad scientists: Chemistry teachers demonstrate Halloween-themed experiments [photo gallery]

Mr. Jeff Christopherson and Mr. Mike Roller demonstrated Halloween-themed experiments for their chemistry classes on Friday, Oct. 29, scaling the annual event back from previous years.

In his 5th-hour Honors Chemistry class, Christopherson exploded jack-o’-lanterns, lit students’ hands on fire, and popped 2-liter bottles decorated like Frankenstein’s monster.

Historically, the chemistry teachers combine classes to conduct the experiments and allow other students and staff members to observe the event. This year, the traditional Halloween festivities were performed just for the two teachers’ students.

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  • Students made slime by mixing polyvinyl alcohol and Borax laundry soap, creating cross-linked polymer chains.

  • Christopherson exploded pre-carved pumpkins filled with hydrogen peroxide, calcium carbide, water, and acetylene gas by igniting the mixture with a high-voltage charge from piezo-electric starter.

  • The hydrogen peroxide in the pumpkin’s “guts” reacted with “pumpkin flesh’s” peroxidase — creating oxygen gas. Water and solid calcium carbide placed inside the pumpkin created acetylene gas. The gasses were ignited through a hole in the back of the pumpkin, causing the carved face of the pumpkin to explode outwards.

  • Calcium carbide and a small volume of water were mixed inside a “Frankenstein Bottle.” The class waited 45 seconds for the carbide to generate acetylene gas before Christopherson ignited the gas with a spark from a Tesla coil. The spark caused an explosion that shot a rubber stopper off the bottle into a ceiling tile above.

  • If the class waited too long for the acetylene gas to generate, there would be too much fuel, and the demonstration would result in a “smokey mess without an explosion,” Christopherson said. “We must create the correct stoichiometric ratio of fuel to oxygen.”

  • Students’ hands were lit on fire after dipping their hands into a mixture of methane, water, concentrated Dawn detergent, and glycerin.

  • Methane gas was trapped in the bubbles produced by the water, detergent, and glycerin. The glycerin added to the soapy solution made the bubbles more durable.

  • Students wet their arms and hands with copious amounts of water to absorb the heat created when the methane gas was lit, protecting them from burns.