LSU ChemDemo Program

The ChemDemo Program was initiated by Prof. George Stanley in the Fall of 1997. Since 1997 we have sent out more than 13,000 LSU students who visited about 6,500 classrooms impacting over 162,000 K-12 students.

As well as being integrated throughout the department, the LSU ChemDemo program participates in a variety of events thought out the region while also featuring in the curricula of various sections of our introductory chemistry courses (General Chemistry 1201/1202; Honors: General Chemistry 1421/1422; Analytical Chemistry 2001, Organic Chemistry 2261) and a couple of upper-level courses (Organometallics 4571; Inorganic Chemistry 4570).

Participating faculty members assign a bonus (or required for smaller classes) homework assignment to the class that involves visiting a K-12 school, teaching a thematic set of chemistry and science concepts that are backed-up with exciting hands-on demonstrations to illustrate those concepts for a class of students.

We currently have several sets of tested, safe demonstrations for the LSU students to choose from that usually, involve hands-on participation of some or all of the students in the classroom that is being visited. We provide detailed instructions for each set of experiments that includes a list of chemicals and items needed, how to perform and explain the science behind the demonstration, presentation tips, and connections of the chemistry/science involved in everyday life. Please contact us if you would like to either participate in ChemDemo or request ChemDemo presentations in your classroom or other events!  

Current Demonstrations:

Grade General Topic / Demonstrations

The Atmosphere: Liquid Nitrogen (LN2), Liquid Oxygen (LO2), Solid CO2 (dry ice), & Water Vapor

This experiment involve using LN2 to let the students "see" the major components in the air around us. LN2 has a temperature of -196°C and freezing and shattering a flower is impressive. Pouring LN2 into an empty soda can causes a thin layer of liquid oxygen to form on the outside and drip off. CO2 is one of the things we exhale and solid CO2 can be dropped in a container of water to make a "witches brew" effect. Having the students blow air into the LN2 causes water vapor to condense out making "clouds".


Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

This is a "fun" activity and can be combined with "The Atmosphere" demo to provide a treat for a class.


Polymer Fun: Disappearing Styrofoam and Starch

When Styrofoam is added to acetone (a common organic solvent) it very rapidly dissolves, making it look like it is disappearing. Starch-based packing "peanuts", on the other hand, will not dissolve in acetone, but do readily dissolve in water. Environmental consequences of these two properties will be discussed with the class. The melted plastic can be recovered from the acetone to make hard styrofoam plastic (illustrating recycling).


Silly Putty: Synthesizing a Polymer

Adding Elmers School glue (or generic brand School Glue) to a water/borax solution causes a chemical reaction between the glue molecules (polyvinylacetate) and the borax molecules (Na2B4O7*10H2O) to produce a highly flexible, cross-linked polymer. This is similar to silly putty (real silly putty is a polymer based on organosiloxy groups and doesn't dry out). A hands-on experiment that all students in the class will do.


Acids & Bases

NaHcO3 and vinegar is used to shoot a cork out of a bottle demonstrating that some acid-base reactions generate gases like CO2. A voice-activated chemical reaction (speaking into a flask containing base and an indicator that changes color once enough CO2 is introduced); pH color changes are illustrated using a basic solution, universal indicator and solid CO2; the reaction of a metal and acid is shown using Mg and Sprite.


Energy: Electricity, Heat, and Light

The properties of electricity are discussed and demonstrated with a Tesla coil and a simple generator allowing the students to turn work into electricity/light. Chemical reactions to make electricity, heat, and light are also preformed. The ability to convert one form of energy into another is illustrated and discussed.


Light Producing Chemical Reactions

Experiments with "quantum fireballs" (burning metal colors), chemiluminescence, and burning magnesium in dry ice.


Kinetics, Equilibrium, and Catalysis

The rates of chemical reactions as a function of temperature will be discussed via the use of light sticks at 3 different temperatures. The concept of activation barriers to chemical reactions is illustrated via the H2/O2 balloon explosion. The catalytic decomposition of H2O2 and oscillation Iodine reaction are also performed along with the chemical principles involved.


Stoichiometry is Fun: Bubble Combustion Experiments

Stoichiometry concepts are explored by students making soap bubbles using various ratios of O2 and combustible gases such as H2, CH4, and CH3CH2CH3 (propane) and then igniting them. The loudest "bang" indicates the correct stoichiometry. Overall chemical reactions can be worked out and an unknown gas identified.


External support for this program has been increasing with donations from the Albemarle Foundation, the Baton Rouge local section of the American Chemical Society, and ExxonMobil.  BASF and the LSU Cain Center for STEM Literacy are also supporting ChemDemo via financial support or donations of specialty materials.  For 2011-12 a one-year $130,000 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents awarded to LSU CxC and CCELL is expanding ChemDemo to a more general ScienceDEMO program.  This involved Geology and additional sections in Chemistry.   

In you are interested in making a donation to the LSU ChemDemo program, please contact the LSU Foundation


Contact Us

Prof. Matthew Chambers

Gretchen Schneider

Department of Chemistry
232 Choppin Hall

 ChemDemo Pamphlet

Student Volunteer Information



Travel Form

Liquid Nitrogen Safety Form



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