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Simple reactions for non-chemist?

  1. Mar 5, 2012 #1
    I'm a physics student who's only taken one college chemistry class. I'm planning on taking the rest of the intro series for my own enrichment and a possible materials science minor, but that's going to come in bits and pieces due to my schedule. So between chemistry classes, I'm looking to have some fun to maintain interest. Also, I have a thing for science demos.

    So I was wondering if there are any interesting, safe reactions that I could perform at home with some basic equipment and reagents (I have a bit of money to spend on this, but not a lot) for my own enrichment/fun. Preferably something really basic that I could understand at intro freshman level, like a precipitation reaction. And of course, something that's not going to kill me if I do it wrong, since I'm so inexperienced.

    And believe me, baking soda and vinegar never gets old. Just looking for a little variety is all = )
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2012 #2


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  4. Mar 5, 2012 #3
  5. Mar 5, 2012 #4


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    Here's a fairly simple procedure for isolating the active component of catnip from the dried herb.


    It should be somewhat safe (it does involve some somewhat dangerous chemicals like toluene [paint thinner], however), and would probably be doable at home. You can also probably find some good procedure for isolating caffeine on google.

    These aren't chemical reactions, but performing these isolations is most definitely chemistry. Often in organic chemistry, we spend more time isolating the product of the reaction, than on the chemical reaction itself.
  6. Mar 5, 2012 #5
    Those suggestions sound great!

    I actually saw the golden rain reaction in my chem book and wanted to try it, but I didn't know that it had such a neat name. And thanks for the heads up about lead salts. I plan to check the MSDS for everything I use and might make before I perform any reactions.

    The chemical garden and distillation of essential oils look like really fun projects too. Extracting chemicals seems just as exciting to me as reactions.

    What would be the cheapest way to get the chemicals needed for these projects? Such as potassium iodide and lead nitrate for the golden rain, and the metal salts for the chemical garden? I've never actually purchased these sorts of chemicals before.
  7. Mar 5, 2012 #6


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  8. Mar 5, 2012 #7


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