Acids, bases, and sea shellsScience project video

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Complexity level:
6
Project cost ($):
Time required:
The time required for interaction between the vinegar and seashell may take up to a week.
Material availability:
Safety concerns:

Abstract

Seashells are the hard, outer coverings that mollusks produce, in order to protect themselves from predators; it also serves as a form of shelter form the elements. Seashells come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors; however, they all are created from the same material - calcium carbonate. In this science fair project, you will investigate how seashells, and other objects containing calcium carbonate, react when exposed to an acid.

Objective

Demonstrate the effects of an acid when it interacts with a base.

Background

Acids and bases are terms used to refer to how different elements, compounds, or solutions interact with each other. Water can be used to distinguish an acid from a base. A water molecule consists of one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms. Imagine adding a chemically reactive substance to water. Upon contact, the molecules of the substance break the bonds of water molecules, causing the water molecules to lose a hydrogen ion. When this occurs, the substance is considered an acid. Now imagine adding a different substance to the water. In this case, the water molecules lose a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom. The liberated oxygen and hydrogen atom bond to form a hydroxide ion. In this case the substance added to the water is considered a base because it created hydroxide.

The release of hydrogen ions or hydroxide ions can be detected by checking the pH level of the water. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14. If the pH is between 1-6 then the solution is considered an acid. If the pH is between 8-14 it is considered a base. A pH of 7 indicates a neutral solution.

Both the seashell and the egg shell are made of calcium carbonate. The Mollusk is a class of invertebrates such as snails, squid, octopus, and clams. Many sea mollusks secrete nacre, a substance that mollusks use to create their shell. In oysters, nacre is the substance that creates pearls. Nacre is made of calcium carbonate, as is the shell of the egg. Calcium carbonate is considered a base. On the other hand, vinegar is acidic.

When and acid and base come into contact, a chemical reaction occurs. In the case of the sea shell and the egg, the acidic vinegar breaks down the calcium carbonate, dissolving the sea shell/egg shell.

Scientific Terms

Calcium carbonate, Acid, Base

Materials

  • Sea shell
  • An egg
  • Vinegar
  • 2 jars that are large enough large enough to contain the sea shell and egg

Procedure

  1. Place the sea shell in one jar and the egg in the other jar.
  2. Pour enough vinegar in each jar to cover both the sea shell and the egg.
  3. Place the jars in a safe place where they will not be disturbed.
  4. After 1-2 days, check the chicken egg. What do you see?
  5. After a week, check the sea shell. What do you notice about the sea shell?

Discussion

Based on what you have learned about acids and bases, how do you think acid rains affect various objects in the environment? Which objects do you think would be most vulnerable? Have you ever taken an antacid to relieve your stomach? What would the pH of the antacid be?

Questions & Answers

What is an acid?

A substance that causes the release of hydrogen ions.

What is a base?

A substance that causes the release of hydroxide ions.

Make it Your Own

Conduct an experiment where you determine the pH of various brand name antacids.

References

"How Are Sea Shells Made?" from eHow http://www.ehow.com/about_6625736_sea-shells-made_.html

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