Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Fun With Liquid Nitrogen
Today we began the second week of our classes. We started off a lab focused on a manual titration to standardize a sodium hydroxide solution. Tomorrow we’ll use this solution to graph the titration curve of the aspirin we synthesized. After the lab we were given a lecture on equilibrium constants which we needed to complete our calculations; although we’d covered this extensively back in AP chemistry it was still useful to be refreshed on the material.
Following the lecture came an uneventful lunch followed by a return to class. We heard a brief seminar on some of the specifics of our calculations before we went outside to have a rather delicious demonstration. Liquid nitrogen can only exist under very cold temperatures of course, so it can be used as a coolant for many things such as, in this case, ice cream.
Due to the fact that nitrogen is a stable atmospheric gas and evaporates very quickly, pouring it into a mixture of cream and sugar has no effects other than chilling the mixture and causing it to turn into a dessert. Although there wasn’t much in the way of academic value to this demonstration, it was quite a treat especially given that the weather has started to heat up again.
With the left over sugar from the ice cream we were shown a far less appetizing demonstration. When the sugar is exposed to sulfuric acid it decomposes into water and carbon, causing a massive pillar of carbon to rise from the beaker.
After these demonstrations I met up with the other ILC members and we spent an hour with our regional admissions officer for the school. The man explained a great deal about both the course requirements and the differences between the engineering school and the college.