Bubble, bubble, toil and (not really) trouble….

States of Matter!

Today we explored the changes that occur between the different forms, or states of matter. Matter can transition between states by adding or removing heat (energy).  Most of us are familiar with the liquid, solid, and gas states of matter but there are others that we are less familiar with, like plasma.  Plasma is matter that makes up the stars of our universe and can be found in lightning and even in plasma TVs.

We also investigated the changes that occur when matter transitions from one state to another.   We all know that when a liquid transitions to a gas, it is called vaporization (or evaporation), and changes between solids and liquids are referred to as melting and freezing, but some of the change terms were new, such as deposition (gas to solid).  Through demonstrations with dry ice (the solid state of carbon dioxide), the students were able to observe one particularly exciting transition in action: sublimation (solid to gas).

We studied sublimation by adding dry ice to water. The warmth of the water causes the dry ice to sublimate rapidly, releasing bubbles of cold gas that cool the air and allows water vapor to condense, for a mysterious-looking brew that quickly sinks and dissipates. This was great fun to investigate and allowed the students to see all three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas) and several transitions (sublimation, condensation, sometimes solidification when the water would freeze to ice around the very cold dry ice) in a single cup.  For fun, at the end of the lesson, we did a larger version of this experiment with a Halloween cauldron, and added some soap bubbles for an extra-special effect!

Additional Information:

Check out this video on how to make dry ice bubbles!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76CNkxizQuc

Thank you for the cards!  We enjoyed them very much!

Keep investigating and experimenting over the summer — we will!

Author

Dr. Catherine Sukow

Dr. Sukow's interest in science education began when she was a teenager, with an extended visit to San Francisco's Exploratorium. In college, she had summer jobs in a similar, smaller, museum. She focused her Master's research at NCSU on the structure of metal silicides on silicon, and her Ph. D. work at Brandeis on the structure of crossbridged actin bundles. While volunteering in her childrens' schools, she was reminded how much fun it is to teach science, and is happy to be teaching now with Science from Scientists. In her spare time, she also enjoys yoga, choral and solo singing, and attempting a variety of international cuisines.

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