TSC: Benedict’s Test for Reducing Sugars demonstration


We often hear people emphasizing about the amount of sugar in their food or drink, and the health risks that are associated with a high sugar intake. But how do scientists quantify the concentration of sugar in various substances? Before the relatively recent invention of sensitive and expensive electronic devices, well, there was beautiful and colorful chemistry!

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The Hot Ice demonstration

It can sometimes be difficult to visualise chemistry, with seemingly infinitely small atoms going on about their business at a speed that can be too fast or, more often, too slow to fully appreciate. The Hot Ice demonstration takes on this challenge, taking advantage of the supersaturation that can occur in a sodium ethanoate solution to show, without a chemical reaction even occurring, its sudden crystallisation that propagates as a wave through the solution. It does this while releasing substantial heat, giving the otherwise bizarre effect of heating a liquid which then subsequently solidifies. A very easy and satisfying demo!

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The Crystal Garden Demonstration

This simple demonstration holds a special place in many chemist’s hearts – certainly mine. The vividness of the chemical reactions that you are witnessing, with little plant-like growths sprouting in different directions at a just visible speed, controlled as if by tiny different minds in each shoot, provides a visual representation of the unique characteristics of many transition metal compounds all in one demonstration. A sort of chemical family photo if you will!

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The Rainbow Snow Globe demonstration

With a simple winter-themed demonstration, I show how you can use a little diet salt to make a homemade snow globe that forms needle-like crystals of potassium chloride with a simple trick. Although, it is also time to party for the new year, so these little guys also love to refract light into a mesmerising array of colours. The demonstration pulls this off by manipulating temperature solubilities, so you can enjoy repeating it again and again with the aid of only a heat source.

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The Chemical Chameleon demonstration

It can be hard to visualise the oxidation states of transition metals but this demonstration has you covered. The rich array of colours of manganese in each of its oxidation states never ceases to amaze. Purple, green, blue, orange. You name it, manganese has it. Exploiting this ability of manganese, and a hydroxide and reducing sugar, this simple to set-up and non-toxic reaction self cycles through almost every colour of the rainbow. It really does earn the name of the Chemical Chameleon!

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