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Department of Chemistry

Image: Department of Chemistry Photography

Would you like to make 'Elephant Toothpaste', do some experiments with Dry Ice, or learn how to make ice cream using Liquid Nitrogen? Then come along to our Open Day this Saturday.

The Department of Chemistry runs 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.

This year's Open Day is on Saturday 16 March, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. As ever, this popular event is particularly aimed at children, with the emphasis on things they can get involved in themselves. This year we'll be offering the following hands-on experiments and demonstrations:

  • Elephant Toothpaste; Dry Ice Experiments; Lava Lamps
  • Rainbow water; Zinc plating coins; Red Cabbage indicator
  • Electrochemical writing; Liquid Nitrogen demonstration; Liquid Nitrogen ice-cream

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," says Open Day organiser Emma Powney.

One of the big draws of the day is Dr Peter Wothers' lectures which are – quite literally – explosive. This year's title is 'Table Talk' and Dr Wothers will be celebrating the International Year of the Periodic Table in a demonstration lecture that explores how the iconic arrangement of chemical elements came about.

Incorporating some exciting new demonstrations, and with help from the audience, he'll be investigating how atomic structure gives rise to the diverse range of chemical properties from metals that explode in water, to elements that enable things to burn. We'll find out why our saucepans should be made out of diamond, and where to find bags of separate atoms. Warning: expect loud bangs!

We know from the feedback we receive that many visiting schools and families enjoy and benefit from the event. Last year, one mother came from France especially to bring her two teenage children to the event.

Another 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.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Walters Kundert Charitable Trust which makes this event possible.

Open Day video

Watch the video to see what happened at last year's Open Day!