Since fireworks are no longer an option, you have to find some way to occupy your time on the 4th of July. I turned to my demo team and brainstormed anything we could do in the backyard at 9News for the celebration. Here’s the classic Elephant’s Toothpaste demo using hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide as the catalyst to make a red, white and blue patriotic eruption that shot up about 20 feet in the air.

We also learned that Oxiclean is the magic cleaner that will remove iodine stains from the beautifully pressed white shirt of a news anchor (thanks to Mark Koebrich for being the best Science Monday co-host in the world!)

UPDATED JULY 5, 2011 – Mark Koebrich asked photo journalist Brian Willie to share some behind-the-scenes video of this amazing eruption. Yes, everyone was wearing safety glasses. It’s important to note that the hydrogen peroxide completely decomposed into water and oxygen. The brownish yellow stains you see are from the iodine in the catalyst (potassium iodide). And the secret to removing those stains in an instant… OxiClean!

 

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25 replies
  1. Quad Damage
    Quad Damage says:

    Okay, what caused the explosion which propelled the foam about 20 feet high? I know this experiment, and it’s never as violent as was it in this case. Maybe the usage of 40% H2O2 instead of 30% is the answer?

    Reply
  2. Susan Wells
    Susan Wells says:

    Quad Damage – I apologize, but we do not give out specific information about the chemicals we use in experiments for the safety and interest of the children who may want to copy it. To get the answer, check with your favorite chemistry teacher.

    Reply
  3. Quad Damage
    Quad Damage says:

    Well, I am a chemistry teacher, and I tried this experiment countless times, but I never experienced such a violent eruption. I guess the shape of the Erlenmeyer is also a factor… However, I do not know how to prove myself that I am really a chemistry teacher. May I ask you to contact me through my email?

    Reply
    • Lisa
      Lisa says:

      I did get success (smaller version) when I used HOT peroxide (35%) and HOT concentrated KI. The conical flask made a big difference rather than standard measuring cylinder.
      What I want to know is how to get the intense colours. I’ve tried food colouring but still get the brown iodine.
      Can you offer more suggestions?

      Reply
  4. Susan Wells
    Susan Wells says:

    If we aren’t talking chemicals, I can share the trick for getting a larger eruption. The secret is in the large flasks with the small neck. The pressure builds up inside and is then forced up through a small opening, making the foam erupt high in the air.

    Reply
  5. Charis
    Charis says:

    Is “Patriotic Monster Foam” Experiment is just the same with the “Elephant’s Toothpaste” Experiment? Is there no difference with the two experiments? Because it sounds like they are the same. I’ve seen both videos and the outcome is still the same. I just want to be sure.

    Reply
  6. Charis
    Charis says:

    Thanks! And I got another question. I saw the materials being used in the video. There was a yeast being used. But when I take a look at the website where the materials are being stated, Sodium iodide solution 2M and Potassium iodide solution 2M was written. What’s the difference? Is there any difference with these and the yeast? Will there be a different output if we used yeast or any of the two? Or will it just be the same?

    Reply
  7. smmsmj
    smmsmj says:

    I teach 4th and 5th grade science enrichment. My goal is to enhance my students knowledge of science and make them want to explore science concepts further. Now for my question, how do I make the demonstration of the “Patriotic Monster Foam” as impressive as possible? Will the yeast or the chemicals listed produce the more memorable display? I have to perform this demonstration 34 times. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    Reply
  8. Donna
    Donna says:

    Hi,
    I would like to know if i used a smaller beaker will the explosion still be the same? And were can I find a 30/40 volume H202 at?

    Reply

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