Daily Activities That Involve Chemistry

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Chemistry often feels overwhelming to the beginning student. The associated fear is compounded because this is the first time that science feels truly foreign. Even a student who doesn't like science can at least relate earth science and biology to experiences and observations from the real world. When faced with formulas, subscripts and coefficients, however, students can undergo a disconnect with chemistry and lose interest in science together. Pointing out a few simple ways that people interact with chemistry every day can go a long way to keeping the student connected, engaged and confident.

Cruising on Hydrocarbons

Gasoline is a hydrocarbon, a molecule that contains only carbon and hydrogen. Octane is made of eight carbon atoms -- hence the prefix "oct-" -- covalently bonded in a chain. Because each carbon atom has four bonds, there are 18 hydrogen atoms -- three bonded to the end atoms and two to each of the middle carbon atoms. In your engine, gasoline undergoes combustion, an exothermic reaction with oxygen, to produce carbon dioxide, water and the energy used to power your car.

Cleanup With Chemicals

Many types of cleaning chemicals exist, but most household grime is organic, and to clean it requires a basic aqueous solution. A base -- the opposite of an acid -- is a chemical that has a large pH; this means its concentration of hydrogen ions is small and concentration of hydroxyl ions (OH-) is large. An aqueous solution is one that is dissolved in large amounts of water, which is why many household cleaners, like glass cleaner, are harmless if you accidentally spill some on you. More powerful cleaners that can be dangerous have a smaller ratio of water to cleanser.

Bonding at Dinner

Preparing meals often involves freezing, melting and boiling, involving all three states of matter -- solid, liquid and gas. These processes are carried out at different temperatures depending on the substance being frozen, melted or boiled. The temperature at which freezing and melting occur is called the melting point. Water's melting point is zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit); the melting point of butter is 36 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), which is why you must put butter in the microwave or over the stove to melt, while ice melts at room temperature. The boiling point of water is 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Baking involves not only a change of state but also breaking bonds of certain chemicals and making new bonds to form new chemicals.

Taking Charge

Your phone, gaming console, television remote control and other electronic devices that use a battery require chemistry to work. A battery is composed of two separated components: an anode and a cathode. The anode produces the electrons used by your device through a chemical reaction of a negatively charged ion with a metal like lead. The electrons reach the cathode and react with a positively charged ion. Charging the battery causes these reactions to run in reverse.


About the Author

Allison Boley writes both fiction and nonfiction, having placed as a semifinalist in the international Scriptapalooza Semi-Annual Television Writing Competition. Boley graduated summa cum laude from the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University, where she is concurrently pursuing her doctorate in physics.

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  • Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images

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