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Alka Seltzer & Temperature Experiment

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  • 0:04 Introduction to the Experiment
  • 1:40 Experiment Materials
  • 1:53 Experiment Methods
  • 3:13 How It Works
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this experiment, we're going to learn how temperature affects the speed of chemical reactions. To do this, we'll be using the over-the-counter medication Alka Seltzer and studying its reaction with water.

Introduction to the Experiment

For this experiment involving Alka Seltzer and temperature, let's first cover the main information and concepts about this experiment before we get into the steps of how to conduct it:

Research Question: How does temperature affect reaction rate?
Age: Middle school and up
Safety concerns: None
Time: 30 minutes
Independent variable Temperature of water
Dependent variable Reaction rate
Controlled variables Amount of water, amount of Alka Seltzer

Have you ever experienced heartburn, that burning feeling in your chest that happens when you eat too much spicy food? That feeling is caused by excess acid in your stomach. A common remedy is an over-the-counter medication called Alka Seltzer. Alka Seltzer is a base, or a molecule that can take up hydrogen ions. Anything that donates hydrogen ions, like the liquid in your stomach, is an acid. Since bases like taking hydrogen ions and acids like giving them, a chemical reaction occurs when you put the two together.

Alka Seltzer tablets easily dissolve in water. Water releases hydrogen ions that can react with the base inside the Alka Seltzer tablet, sodium bicarbonate. When the sodium bicarbonate reacts with the hydrogen ions, carbon dioxide forms, which causes the bubbles you see when you drop an Alka Seltzer tablet in water.

Lots of things can influence how fast chemical reactions, like dissolving the Alka Seltzer in water, occur. Today, we're going to look at temperature. To measure this, we'll record the rate of reaction, which is the speed at which a reaction proceeds, as well as any observations when we combine Alka Seltzer and water.

Before you get started, think about what will happen. Will warmer temperatures have a faster reaction rate? Why or why not?

Experiment Materials

Let's take a quick look at the experiment's materials:

  • Three Alka Seltzer tablets
  • Three cups
  • Access to both hot and cold water
  • Timer
  • Thermometer

You'll also need to create a data table like the one appearing here:

Cup Temperature Reaction Time Observations
Hot
Room Temp
Cold

Experiment Methods

1. Fill one cup halfway with water and put it in the fridge for at least 10 minutes. This is your cold water.

2. Fill another cup halfway with water and leave it on the counter to get it to room temperature.

3. Use the hottest tap water and fill a third cup halfway with water. This is your hot water.

The next three steps include taking your measurements and recording your results:

4. Take the temperature of each cup using the thermometer and record it in your data table.

5. Start with the hot water. Get your timer ready and drop the Alka Seltzer tablet in. Record how long it takes for the reaction to finish, which is when no more bubbles are forming and the tablet is completely dissolved. Record this time and any observations in your data table.

6. Repeat step 5 for the room temperature water and the cold water.

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