Category: Chemistry

Solar paint

Solar paint

Solar paint

07/01/17

“Can we use paint to make energy?”

 

Paint is usually seen as just a covering used to keep mold away or for making art. However, is it possible to do more with this material? Well, let’s analyze this using our scientific mindset. If we were to mix in titanium oxide into paint, then it would be capable of absorbing sunlight to convert the moisture into hydrogen and oxygen, therefore allowing for the consumption of hydrogen energy. This tecnology is currently being developed by a team at RMIT in Australia and could revolutionize sustainable energy generation, allowing for easy residential level consumption! 

Cosmic dust

Cosmic dust

Cosmic dust

05/25/17

“What is that outer space dust made out of?”

 

Out in space there seems to be a very peculiar material, something akin to a cosmic dust. However, exactly is it and what is it made out of? Well, let’s start from a scientific perspective. If one were to put some of this cosmic dust under a microscope, then we would see that not only it is only a few molecules in size, contains organic matter, and is physically porous in nature. This interstellar dust is found between planets, and given its size is so small that infrared telescopes are often needed to study it.

Ethanol fuel

Ethanol fuel

Ethanol fuel

06/27/17

“Can we use plants to make fuel?”

 

Plants can be found everywhere on this planet, from the sandiest deserts to the densest rainforests. And like animals, all of these plants have one thing in common, stored energy! So logically speaking, couldn’t we convert some of this plant matter into a fuel for our own use? Well, let’s use our scientific mindset to find out.
First, let’s gather up some plants with starches and sugars such as corn grain and place it in a production facility. Then, let’s break it down into its component sugars and convert into a chemical called ethanol. Ethanol is a flammable liquid that can be used to power internal combustion engines. Because of its wide availability in agricultural areas, ethanol fuel is a popular choice in the nation of Brazil and the Great Plains of the United States.

Chemical activity series

Chemical activity series

Chemical activity series

06/13/17

“How can we predict if an atom will react with another atom or not?”

 

If you ever decide to take a chemistry class, you will probably have to solve a lot of chemical reactions sets. However, have you ever wondered whether or not if these sets can be achieved or not? Well, in the natural world, it has been empirically investigated that some elements are more reactive with others. And in fact, this has found to be a linear correlation. To illustrate, let’s say that elements x is more reactive than element y which is more reactive than element z, then element x will also be more reactive with element z. If you put together an entire list of all of the reactivities of the periodic table of elements, you would build something that is called a reactivity series. The most reactive element is fluorine [F], and the least reactive metal is neon[Ne]

Valence gap

Valence gap

Valence gap

06/05/17

“Why are materials electrically insulative, conductive, or semiconductive?”

 

All materials fall into one of three classifications when it comes to moving an electric current, insulative, conductive, or semiconductive. However, what property determines this? Well, let’s look at the atomic level to find out. When multiples atoms come close together, their possible energy states branch out into multiple bands. The two most important bands are the valence (which holds the outermost electrons) and conduction bands (which holds electrons ready to conduct) These bands will be separated by a valence gap.. If there is no difference, then it takes no extra energy to conduct energy and the material is conductive. If there is a noticeable but surmountable gap then the material is semiconductive. And if it is impossible to reach then it is insulative. You can think of it like the distance to a basketball hoop, the higher the height the more energy is required.

Bomb calorimeters

Bomb calorimeters

Bomb calorimeters

06/02/17

“How can we measure the calories present in food?”

 

In our modern health obsessed world, we would like to know the calories contained in all foods. However, how can this even be determined in the first place? Well, let’s think back to a bit of prior knowledge. We know that calories are another way of saying energy and that we can measure the energy content of fuels using calorimeters. So what if we were to make a special type of calorimeter to find the energy contained in foods? Well, let’s put our engineering mind to the test.

 

First, let’s get a big tub of water. Then, let’s take a sample of our food, place it in an insulating case with some oxygen, attach it to an ignition coil, and place everything in the water. When we activate the ignition unit, the ignition coil will cause our sample to explode and raise the temperature of the water. From the measured temperature change, we will be able to measure the calories contained in the sample! This device is known as a bomb calorimeter and is used in food labs all over the world.

Calorimeters

Calorimeters

Calorimeters

06/01/17

“How can we determine the energy composition of a fuel?”

 

Fuels are one of the most vital pieces of operation for modern transportation. However, how do scientists determine the amount of energy contained in them in the first place? Well, let’s think about it. We know that if we ignite fuel, then we can get a fire. And we also know that this fire can heat objects such a cup of water. And we also know that if we measure the change in temperature of this water, then we can obtain the amount of heat added. So what if we were to combine all of the processes to make an energy measuring device? Well, this is the fundamental idea behind a calorimeter and is used in industrial operations all over this planet.