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Carbon dioxide (CO2) and global warmingFeatured science projectScience project video

Materials

The materials required for ths experiment:

  • 3 incandescent lamps
  • 3 fish tanks with air tight covers and a small 15-20mm diameter opening
  • 300 mm rubber hose 15-20 mm in diameter
  • 1meter rubber hose 15-20 mm in diameter
  • 1 air tight plastic bag
  • 1 infrared thermometer
  • stop watch
  • masking tape
  • 3 kg of black colored soil
  • A car
  • An assistant 

Procedure

  1. For this experiment, the independent variable is the concentration of carbon dioxide, either from air blown from our lungs or smoke from a car exhaust. The dependent variable is the temperature of the air in the tank. This is determined by measuring the temperature using an infrared thermometer. The constants (control variables) are the starting temperature of the air in the tanks, the amount of type of soil at the base of the tanks and the volume of the tanks.
  2. The three water tanks are filled with a layer of black soil about 2 cm thick.
  3. A cover is placed over the first thank and masking tape is used to seal it in palce. It contains normal air.
  4. The second water tank is filled with air from our lungs. Using the rubber hose, air is blown into the tank from your mouth, into a small opening in the cover of the tank. The tank is then sealed air tight with the cover and masking tape.
  5. The third water tank is filled with air from the car exhaust. The open end of the plastic bag is wrapped around the exhaust of the car in such a way that the smoke from the exhaust will fill the bag. The plastic bag is fixed to the exhaust using masking tape. On the other end of the plastic bag, a small hole is made and the meter-long hose in inserted to a depth of about 5 cm. The hose is also fixed in place using the masking tape. The other end of the hose is inserted into a small opening in the tank cover, and the masking tape is used to seal the hose in its place. The car engine is started and left to run for 3 minutes with the help of the assistant and the smoke from the exhaust will be forced into the water tank. The tank is then sealed air tight with the cover and masking tape.
  6. Air from a person lungs a carbon dioxide concentration of about 4% whereas the smoke from the exhaust of a car will have about 12% carbon dioxide. The air around us has about 0.038% carbon dioxide.
  7. The incandescence lamps are placed about 1 meter above each of the 3 water tanks. The lamp is left on until the temperature inside the tanks reaches 32 0C. The lamp is then switched off and the temperature inside the tank is recorded every 10 minutes for 1 hour. 
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Complexity level:
5
Project cost ($):
90
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 2 hours for experiment
Material availability:
Easily found. Access to a car is required.
Safety concerns:

Be wary of carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of the car. Conduct the experiment in a well ventilated garage. Adult assistance is required for the operation of the car.