A Copper Alliance Member
Did you know that the chemical symbol for copper is Cu from the Latin word cuprium?
Remember to read all the instructions before you begin, and record your results throughout the experiment.
Compare your results with a friend!
- 10 dirty pennies
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- small bowl (not metal!)
- 1 spoon (not metal!)
- 2 steel nails
- 1 steel screw
- paper towels or napkins
- Mix the lemon juice, vinegar and salt in the bowl until dissolved.
- Take a penny and dip it half way into the mixture for 20 seconds. Take it out - what happened?
- Put the rest of the pennies into the mixture. Watch carefully. What happens?
- In 5 minutes, take 4 of the pennies out and lay them on a paper towel to dry.
- Take the remaining pennies out of the mixture and hold them under running water until they are thoroughly rinsed. Lay them out to dry on another paper towel and label them "clean."
Why did the pennies look dirty when you started the experiment?Chemistry can answer these questions! Do you know what an atom is? Atoms are microscopically tiny particles that are the basic building blocks of virtually everything we can see. Our bodies are made up of billions and billions of atoms - all different shapes and sizes. But some things are made up of only one kind of atom. For example, the copper used for pennies is made up mainly of copper atoms. But when they join with other atoms, like oxygen in the air, they form molecules - in this case a molecule called copper oxide. The copper oxide makes the pennies look dirty.
Why does the mixture clean the pennies?
The mixture is acidic, and the acid from the lemon juice and vinegar dissolves the copper oxide. Why not try to dissolve copper oxide in other acidic mixtures! What can you think of?
The pennies that weren't rinsed turned a blue color. Why?
When the mixture removes the copper oxide, it becomes easy for the copper atoms to join together with oxygen and chlorine (salt). When this happens, a new compound is formed, called malachite. Malachite is usually blue-green.
The CDA web site provides many other resources for people interested in learning more about copper and its alloys.
Take a look at Innovations - our on-line magazine.
Please also check out Copper In Your Home - a section dedicated to consumers, with a special section just for kids!
If you need metallurgical or properties information, take a look at the Standards & Properties section.