Lab @ My Place

This year we are participating in an art/science collaboration with Pavlov Medialab. We designed some simple chemistry "experiments" based on the questions submitted by students from a local school and then had them execute them in the home of a volunteer. The results will be on display at the Nacht van Kunst en Wetenschap (The Night of Art and Science), an annual tradition in Groningen. This year is a special celebration because it is also the 400th birthday of the University of Groningen.

Our questions had to do with energy and how it is generated, stored, and released by carbon. Below is an "explanimation" (in Dutch) that was made to go along with the exhibit.

There were four different experiments:

Trapping Heat: What materials are the best insulators? The students answered this question by insulating a bottle of warm water and measuring its temperature over time. They had all sorts of materials... aluminum foil, sand, packing peanuts, mirror glass... this experiment was performed in the living room. In retrospect giving a bunch of kids sand to play with indoors wasn't the best idea.

 

Calorimetry: How much energy is contained in various materials? For this experiment the students measured the change in temperature of water when a known mass was burned under it. The people at Pavlov did a great job building non-adiabatic "calorimeters" and some of the students got remarkably close to the literature value of sugar (~3.8 kcal/g). Their average value was 2.3 kcal/g. This experiment was performed outdoors, which was necessary as the students got creative and started burning all sorts of plastics and mixtures of materials.

 

Biogas: How much energy is there in a fart? To answer this question we employed the help of some local cows (we have plenty in Groningen) to build biogas reactors. The students built their own and we compared our "laboratory" reactors to their "homemade" reactors by looking at the gas composition (a measurement that unfortunately did not work), the rate of gas production, and by trying to light the gasses on fire. This experiment was done on a boat in a canal very close to the home where the other two experiments are.

 

Here is the group photo, taken on the boat:

LAMP Group Photo May 16 2014

This video was produced by Pavlov and displayed inside the boat pictured above:

And here is a video piece from the university newspaper:

 

 

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