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Chemistry: Demo: Elephant Snot


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 2:23
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 25 MB
  • Posted: 07/14/2009

This lesson is part of the following series:

Chemistry: Full Course (303 lessons, $198.00)
Chemistry: Chemical Kinetics (18 lessons, $25.74)
Chemistry: Catalysts (5 lessons, $4.95)

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Chemistry, taught by Professor Harman, Professor Yee, and Professor Sammakia. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers atoms, molecules and ions, stoichiometry, reactions in aqueous solutions, gases, thermochemistry, Modern Atomic Theory, electron configurations, periodicity, chemical bonding, molecular geometry, bonding theory, oxidation-reduction reactions, condensed phases, solution properties, kinetics, acids and bases, organic reactions, thermodynamics, nuclear chemistry, metals, nonmetals, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and more.

Dean Harman is a professor of chemistry at the University of Virginia, where he has been honored with several teaching awards. He heads Harman Research Group, which specializes in the novel organic transformations made possible by electron-rich metal centers such as Os(II), RE(I), AND W(0). He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Gordon Yee is an associate professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and completed postdoctoral work at DuPont. A widely published author, Professor Yee studies molecule-based magnetism.

Tarek Sammakia is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he teaches organic chemistry to undergraduate and graduate students. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University and carried out postdoctoral research at Harvard University. He has received several national awards for his work in synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry.

About this Author

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Hydrogen peroxide is a somewhat interesting compound because it disproportionates, which means that it starts out in one oxidation state and reacts with itself to form compounds of two oxidation states. So hydrogen peroxide, which is HO-OH disproportionates to H[2]O and O[2]. And you've seen this reaction in, for instance, the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," when Sean Connery is lying on the ground of the building where the Holy Grail is. You remember he had just been shot, and Indiana Jones comes out with the Holy Grail having some liquid in it, and he pours it onto Sean Connery's bullet wound and you see some foaming, and then suddenly the wound is all healed. Well, what that is, it turns out that your body has a catalyst for the decomposition or the disproportionation of hydrogen peroxide to water and O[2], oxygen. And what we're going to show you here is another catalyst for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, and that's potassium iodide.
So what I have here is some dishwashing liquid and some glycerin. Glycerin is a product of the hydrolysis of fat. And I'm going to add some 30 percent hydrogen peroxide to it like that. And nothing much is happening. I'm going to give it a swirl. Again, nothing much has happened. And now I'm going to add some potassium iodide. In potassium iodide, the I^- is the catalyst for the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, and let's see what happens.
Okay, that was a little more rigorous than I expected so I stepped back. The reason why we call this demonstration "elephant snot" is, basically what else could we call it? Again, it was that the potassium iodide catalyzed the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and O[2]. The O[2] or oxygen gas blew bubbles from the dishwashing liquid that we originally put into the bottom of the container, and here you see the result.
Chemical Kinetics
CIA Demonstration: Elephant Snot Page [1 of 1]

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