skip to content

Department of Chemistry


Image: Department of Chemistry Photography

Want to learn how to turn water into rainbows? Or make ice cream with liquid nitrogen, get coffee cups to disappear, or experiment with dry ice? Then come along to our Chemistry Open Day on Saturday 14 March.

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.

"We'll hear about the more exotic elements used in today's latest electrical devices – and even see how chemical light helps forensic scientists investigate crime scenes." Dr Peter Wothers.

This year's Open Day is on Saturday 14 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 experiments and demonstrations: 

  • Getting hands-on with Cornflour Slime (a non-Newtonian fluid) 
  • Making elephant toothpaste 
  • Making lava lamps and rainbow water
  • Disappearing Coffee Cups
  • Dry ice Experiments 
  • Zinc plating coins 
  • Electrochemical writing 
  • 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. One of the big draws of the day is Dr Peter Wothers' lectures which are – quite literally – explosive. This year Dr Wothers' lecture "The Chemistry of Light" will explore humankind's quest to light our way. 

In today's modern world, we take for granted the fact that we can provide instant light at the flick of a switch, but before the invention of modern electric lights, the only way of making light was through chemistry.

Dr Wothers explores the elements involved over the centuries with his usual exciting demonstrations. From the earliest uses of oil lamps, and the element named for its ability to light up the alchemist's laboratory, to the more exotic elements used in today's latest electrical devices, we will even see how chemical light helps forensic scientists investigate crime scenes. As usual, there will be plenty of flashes and bangs to keep you on the edge of your seats.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of The Walters Kundert Charitable Trust which makes this event possible – we know from the feedback we receive how much visitors enjoy and benefit from the event.


What happens at Open Day

Never been to Chemistry Open Day before?

Then you can get a taster of the day from this video.