Element Collection

Element Collection

Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting Started With Home Chemistry

As a part of my participation in the Gulf Coast MakerCon, I wanted to write a short article to cover the basics of home chemistry, for those that want to know more. We'll go over where to start, how to find supplies, and a few excellent resources I use in my own experimental pursuits.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gulf Coast Makercon 2014

I'm very excited to announce that I will be participating in the Gulf Coast MakerCon on April 5-6, in Tampa FL! This event is similar (but not affilliated with) the Maker Faire in California, and is made up of people that make or do interesting things. There's a huge variety of participants - 3D printing, robotics, custom jewelry, cosplay, tabletop gaming, and much more - so you're bound to find something that interests you! The MakerCon folks featured me in one of their Meet the Maker segments as well.

I will be hosting a booth featuring my Element Display, which is now nearly fully stocked with samples! I only have about 13 left to collect. I will also have an outdoor area where I will be performing live chemistry demonstrations every few hours, including exciting experiments like thermite reactions. I haven't finalized my list of demos, but I'm leaning towards 3 per show, with the theme of wresting elements from their compounds.

If you are in the area, I definitely recommend you try coming to this event. It promises to be very educational, exciting, and lots of fun! Come visit my booth and say hi!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Oil of Wintergreen

This post is the video companion to this video.

Today's experiment will be making a minty-scented oil for the winter time: methyl salicylate, or oil of wintergreen. This can be made simply from two very common and easy to obtain chemicals, and with a very simple procedure. This is also one of my first forays into organic chemistry!

  • 13.0 g aspirin, C9H8O4 (the actual tablets will weigh more!)
  • 60 mL methanol, CH3OH
  • 8 mL concentrated sulfuric acid, H2SO4
  • Distilled water 
1 mol aspirin + 2 mol methanol --> 1 mol methyl acetate + 1 mol methyl salicylate

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chevreul's Salt

This post is the Video Companion to this video.

Chevreul's Salt is a little-known copper compound that is quite easy to prepare, and has a few very interesting properties. In this post, I'll go over in detail what I did.

This experiment only requires two materials: copper sulfate and sodium metabisulfite. The former is sold at hardware stores as root killer for plumbing, and the latter is commonly found on eBay (since it is used by gold recovery people).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Potassium Chlorate from Bleach

This post serves as the Video Companion to this video.

This experiment was also featured on Hack a Day!

In this simple experiment you can create potassium chlorate, a powerful oxidizer that finds use in amateur rocketry, a convenient source of oxygen, and the famous "screaming gummy bear" demo (among other things), from common household items with a minimum of effort. The tradeoff is that it's a very inefficient process and yields tend to be very low. Electrolysis is a far superior method, and is something I plan on trying out in the future.

Monday, August 12, 2013

'Video Companion' Posts

Recently I read a comment thread elsewhere on the 'net where people were arguing the pros and cons of conveying information by video vs. by text. Some prefer video because you actually get to see what's going on, and some prefer text because they can peruse it at their own pace and it is in an easily searchable format. I think it's at least partially a case of visual learners vs. reading-writing preference learners, but I digress.

While I presonally prefer video format (as you may have guessed from there being much more content on my YouTube page) I can understand the points of both sides, and have decided to write blog posts here that I will call "Video Companions". These posts will include a basic write up of the experiment shown in one of my videos, to include things like procedures, formulas, necessary calculations, and any other observations I didn't point out in the video. I think these posts will help to reach a wider audience, enable people to explore the science more, and hopefully take away more from my experiments. I'll try to do this for all my new videos from here on out, and also add posts for older videos (probably progressing in order of their popularity). You can easily search for these types of posts by clicking the tag in the Categories side bar to the right.

So if you prefer text, rejoice and stay tuned for more! If you prefer video, feel free to stick to YouTube, but I encouorage you to visit here occasionally if you have any questions.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Element Display: LED Control Circuitry

This post will describe the electronics I used to drive and control the LEDs for my element display. These were designed by my good friend and very skilled electrical engineer Bill Porter (www.billporter.info) and built by him and myself. To read about the project as a whole, see the introductory post.

I’m not an electrical engineer, but I will try to describe what I can here. Bill has a much deeper knowledge of this sort of thing, and has posted a much more in-depth article about how all this works on his website, which he has dubbed the Elemental Illuminator.