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Do you know any great physics/chemistry projects? Answered

To a upper-high school academic level. I've been just doing a homopolar motor and supercooling water. Nothing very advanced or interesting. Do you guys know any good projects? Pertaining to Chemistry, I've seen most on Instructables and few on kentchem. Pertaining to Physics, blast away! I've done limited projects although I have few bookmarked for later. Answers that can be made at home are appreciated! Additionally, answers that can be made at quickly with a somewhat limited number of materials are also appreciated.
Well since answering stopped Top answers were from FoolishSage, The Skinnerz, and gruffalo child. FoolishSage wins because of the amount of projects provided. But these were all great answers.


For a combination of physics and chemistry, piezoelectric crystals look interesting, and you can make working ones from readily available chemicals. Or a basic demostration hydrogen fuel cell.

The crystals are good for chemistry but how do I demonstrate that they produce an electrical current with a limited budget? I will do the hydrogen fuel cell now. Thanks!

I've seen a 1/2 inch home-grown crystal produce about 9V when tapped gently. The ideal thing to use is an oscilloscope, but it should pick up on a multimeter. If it works well, you may even be able to light a small LED. If that doesn't work, gluing a plate to one side of the crystal and fixing it in front of a speaker will give a more continuous AC output. I'm actually growing some sugar crystals at the moment to see if I can make it work.

I used to do demonstrations on behalf of the Engineering Faculty to all kinds of students to get them interested in engineering (specifically chemical engineering). I have set-up and demonstrated things myself but also prepared projects to allow students to interact. What size of project are you looking for (in terms of time/budget)?

For a short project that models a well known system you can build a cooling tower (like those used next to nuclear power plants). A relatively simple system can be surprisingly powerful. Add a couple thermocouples and automatic valves to it and you can monitor/control it on a computer from across the world

For a more interesting result you can brew beer (bio-chem) but check if it is legal in your area for your age group. My first try I had 20 litres of pretty decent beer in about 2 weeks. Invite some friends over and have a BBQ.

I recall seeing a project once of a group that made a sort of mechanical exoskeleton but I cannot seem to find a link to it..

Yeah it's not appropriate for my age group. :/ The cooling tower is a nice idea, looked it up on ehow. But I'm under time and budget constraints. Thanks though!

A cooling tower is basically a pump that brings water to a sprayer at the top of a tower which is filled with stuff (bits of plastic for example) and a fan that pushes air up into the tower from the bottom. Our demo model had a heating system for the ingoing water to show just how effective it was despite it's small size (took water from about 40/50°C to about 10°C while the ambient temp was around 15/20°C)

Depending on what type of kit and supplies you have you can try the following:
-Extracting essential oils from plants
-Extract caffeine from tea (be careful because it is dangerous if ingested)
-make, use and regenerate heat packs
-build a sterling engine
-build a set-up to demonstrate the Brazil Nut Effect
-build a glider or a powered model aircraft
-build a stereoscope for some old school 3D
-build a (low power) coil gun

If you are looking for something simpler you can always try googling science fair projects.

Well if I googled science fair projects nothing will compare with these answers! Yes, these will work most definitely.

I'm not sure of what exactly is meant by "project", and if 'project' includes some theory, but here are some Physics ideas:
1. Feynman writes about a paradox with an S-shaped piece of tubing though which water is sucked in. Find the exact formulation of the problem, try to solve the paradox and try to set an experiment.
2. Which direction does a brick tower break when it falls?
3. What is the difference between different vowels? Try to record it and make a sort of audio analyzer, if you are into programming.
4.Landau and Lifshitz in their Theoretical Physics/Hydrodinamics claim than the force acting on a bubble moving though some liquid is 2/3 of that acting a ball of the same size. Try to understand this, prove it, or prove that they have made a mistake, which smart people sometimes do.
5. A railway carriage with a candle inside accelerates. What happens to the flame?
Here are just some random ideas. If you like them - or dislike them - you can always ask for more...


Woah, that's just water under high voltage-- nothing else?

Yes, it just two glasses of distilled water and electrode with 15-25kV inside.
Quite awesome... Sorry, I forgot all the comments were in Russian...

These are really great actually, I'm already trying to figure them out.

That's cool! Might try it! haha. I love the onion.

There does exist some kind of process for separating tritium mixed with the other two isotopes of hydrogen, e.g. tritiated-water from nuclear reactor coolant.
The Wikipedia article on Tritium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium) included this reference:

The blurb there mentions "cryogenic distillation" as Stage 2, in a two stage process.

To reduce the risks further, Ontario Power Generation (then known as Ontario Hydro) commissioned a Tritium Removal Facility (TRF) at its Darlington nuclear station (near Toronto, Ontario) in 1990. This facility chemically extracts tritium from the moderator water of all of Ontario Power Generation's CANDU reactors, using a two-stage process. Stage 1 is a vapour phase catalytic extraction (VPCE) process which extracts the tritium in vapour form. Stage 2 is a cryogenic distillation process which then distills the tritium at low temperatures and immobilizes it.
I am guessing that phrase "cryogenic distillation" refers to fractional distillation of liquid hydrogen.  Also guessing the different possible H2 molecules {H-H,H-D,H-T,D-T,T-T} have different boiling points, at the same pressure. Possibly because of differences in molecular weight, {2,4,4,5,6} respectively.

Guessing that Stage 1, the so-called VPCE, is some kind of process for splitting water, i.e. separating the hydrogen from oxygen.

By the way, the abundance of tritium in natural water (water that has not been deuterium-enriched and piped through a nuclear reactor), should be very, very low. Because of the short half life of tritium (12 years). I.e. most water of in the world is much, much older than that.


6 years ago

I'm sure lemonie will suggest something full of wonder.
In the meantime, roast some coffee.  There are about 2500 known
chemical compounds in a coffee bean and as many unknown. 
Roasting profiles in a modern coffee facility are a carefully
protected secret yet no one has published the physics of making a bean
into coffee people love.  Like what temperature avoids caramelizing of the
sugars but makes the green taste disappear etc, etc...
Are you game able ? ?


interesting idea. I'll try it in the meantime and research up on it. Thanks!

What about building a gasifier? It converts biomass into hydrogen gas by a process called pyrolysis. You can fuel gas engines or build a stove that burns the gas for cooking or heating. There is an instructable of someone attaching a gasifier to a truck. No need for gas!
Check this out:
Tree Powered Dump Truck