Experiments With Coal

Coal is a non-renewable source of energy
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Coal is a fossil fuel that takes millions of years to create. Coal is created from plants buried under water and dirt. Heat and pressure turn the plants into coal, a mineral. Coal is classified into four types; anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous and lignite. Bituminous coal is the most abundant from of coal in North America, according to Britannica Online (Reference 4).

Grow Colorful Moss

Sprinkle 1 tbsp. of salt over a lump of coal in a bowl covered by 1/2 cup of water. Carefully sprinkle 2 tbsp, water over the salt on the coal. Continue by adding 2 tbsp. laundry bluing and three drops of mercurochrome. Laundry bluing is a laundry whitener and can usually be found at a local grocery story. Mercurochrome is an antiseptic and is usually available in local pharmacies. For extra color add two drops of any color food coloring. Wait three days for a colorful moss to develop.

Coal as a Water Filter

Fill a glass bowl or aquarium with water. Add 1/3 cup soil and mix well until the water is murky or muddy. Add a coal packet. Coal packets are found in pet shops that sell fish. Monitor the cleanliness of the water for a period of 24 hours.

Methane Gas Collection from Coal

Hammer 1/2 cup of soft or bituminous coal into powder. Pour or scoop the coal into the large end of a funnel and place a finger over the small opening of the funnel to prevent the coal from pouring out. Carefully turn the funnel over and place the upside-down funnel filled with coal powder into a quart size mason jar. Slowly fill the jar with water, until the upside-down funnel is covered with water. Fill a test tube with water and insert it into the small end of the funnel. Avoid putting air into the test tube. Place a rubber band around the glass jar at the water level. Observe the test tube as it fills with methane gas over a three day period.

Compare the Burning Rates of Different Coal Types

Label the four different types of coal: lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous and anthracite. Use a pair of tongs to hold each numbered sample of a type of coal over an open flame, such as a Bunsen burner. Document the speed of ignition of each sample and time the burning of each sample.

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