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Bubbles, batteries and bangs: Chemistry Open Day 2018

There will be bubbles, batteries and bangs at our Open Day in mid-March. Budding chemists can enjoy creating rainbows in test tubes, making batteries from fruits and exploring non-Newtonian liquids like cornflour slime!

We run an Open Day every year as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. Hundreds of people of all ages come through our doors and enjoy exploring aspects of chemistry from the explosive to the illuminating. In 2018 our Open Day takes place on Saturday 17th March.

Visitors can take part in a range of activities - including creating volcanoes with bicarbonate of soda (see picture, top). At previous Open Days, visitors have learned about the behaviours of liquids of different densities through creating sugar-water rainbows in test tubes. They have explored the structure of molecules by constructing models of them. “Ethanol is the easiest and when you make the model, it looks like a little dog”, says Open Day organiser Emma Powney.

Children of all ages have also enjoyed making their own batteries out of fruit and learned about the properties of non-Newtonian fluids - those that behave differently when you apply pressure to them - by playing with cornflour slime and watching volunteers walking across a pond filled with it. (See picture above right.)

"It's always a very popular day. On average, we have about 1,500 visitors during the day, and sometimes as many as 2,000," Emma says.

One of the big draws of the day is Dr Pete Wothers' lectures which are - quite literally - explosive. This year's lecture is entitled It's A Gas and is suitable for ages 7+ upwards. Early booking is advisable.

We know from the feedback we receive that many visiting schools and families enjoy and benefit from the event. One Leicestershire primary school wrote to us last year to say: "Our thanks to the Chemistry department: our children had an amazing day and were all well and truly entertained. They were given a glimpse of science at a top university – and loved every minute!"

And a parent contacted us to say "We enjoyed a fabulous day at the Department of Chemistry. Everything from Dr Wothers' inspiring lecture to the range of hands-on activities was simply marvellous and you have won over the hearts of all three of my children to science. Heartfelt thanks from my entire family."

Read more about the Chemistry Open Day here.