Separation of Mixtures: Not as easy as it sounds

The separation of components in a mixture is very important in many science fields. When scientists need to study one particular component of a mixture, various separation methods are used. These methods often utilize the physical,and sometimes the chemical properties of the substances. After reviewing the differences between chemical elements, compounds, and mixtures, we discussed some common reasons and methods for separating out the components of a mixture.

Students were given a mixture of sand, rice, and iron filings and worked in teams to design and implement a multi-step purification process for this mixture, taking advantage of the different properties of each component to recover as much as possible. Various tools were provided to the students, including many household items such as colanders, sieves, coffee filters, magnets, and utensils. Magnets were used by all groups to separate the iron fillings from the mixture and colanders were the most popular item used to separate rice and sand.


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Additional Information:

Music Video: Meet the Elements (3:15) — They Might Be Giants 


Dr. Maureen Griffin

Maureen earned a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. While at Penn, she developed a novel micro-mechanical technique called micropipette peeling to investigate the role of muscle cell adhesion in normal and diseased skeletal muscle cells. After graduating, Maureen worked full time as a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist a SelectX Pharmaceuticals. She joined the teaching staff in 2008 and was excited to be made an executive staff member in 2009. Maureen also continued to consult part time for SelectX until her daughter's birth in 2009; now she is focused on Science from Scientists and, of course, her children. Maureen uses her spare time to read, blog, cook, and renovate her house.

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