Microscale chemistry

Tips, ideas and practical experiments to help you make the most of microscale chemistry in your classroom

Getting started

Two electrodes create bubbles in a drop of blue liquid

The fast guide to microscale practical work

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Every chemistry teacher’s must-have guide to this no-fuss method for practical work

A close-up photograph of a laboratory well-plate with 24 wells, containing an orange-yellow solution

Apparatus and techniques for microscale chemistry

Find out what apparatus you need for common microscale experiments, learn about key techniques and discover how to prepare solutions of different elements.

Why microscale?

Two bottle tops in a bunsen burner flame

Maximise learning with microscale

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Find out why and how a small-scale approach to practical work reaps big rewards in your classroom

Microscale chemistry

Making practical work more effective

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Microscale chemistry and well-ordered teaching sequences reduce cognitive overload

A photo of drip bottles around a grid of different coloured drops of liquid

Why I love microscale

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Advocating a practical approach to practical work in the classroom

Why microscale?

More from Education in Chemistry

A combination lock dissolves into pixels

Escape the classroom: and try microscale chemistry

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Escape room puzzles based on simple microscale reactions for students

More from Education in Chemistry

A combination lock dissolves into pixels

Escape the classroom: and try microscale chemistry

By

Escape room puzzles based on simple microscale reactions for students

Microscale chemistry practicals

Exhibition Chemistry demonstrations

Engage and inspire your students with these exciting demonstrations, including videos, practical guidance and teaching notes

Two petri dishes wired with crocodile clips and paperclips and attached with paper which is changing colour under the charge

The movement of ions: bringing electrolysis to life

Demonstrate the movement of positive and negative ions with a simpler, safer version of this classic demo

A hand igniting soap bubbles in a petri dish with a lit wooden split

Dynamite soap: The combustion of stoichiometric hydrogen–oxygen mixtures

Add this quick demo to the end of a lesson on squeaky pops to show the dramatic impact of mixing chemicals in the correct proportions

Practical videos

Video resources featuring microscale experiments, designed to support flipped learning and live practical work

Microscale halogen displacement experiment with drops being added to a spotting tile

Displacement reactions – practical videos | 14–16 students

Video and resources investigating the displacement reactions between the halogens chlorine, bromine and iodine and their respective halides in microscale

Row of test tubes, each labelled with a different metal ion, containing wooden splints

Identifying ions – practical videos | 14–16 students

Video resource showing how to identify ions in various solutions. Flame tests, sodium hydroxide test (microscale) and tests for negative ions: carbonate, sulfate and halide ions

Thermometer stuck through hole in lid of polystyrene cup

Reactivity of metals | practical videos | 14–16 years

Video with supporting resources featuring three experiments investigating the relative reactivity of metals, including metal displacement reactions in microscale

A Petri dish set up for a microscale electrolysis experiment using samples of metal and a power supply

Electrochemical cells | practical videos | 16–18 students

Video and supporting resources to support electrochemistry practical work, including two microscale experiments, animation and cell diagrams

More microscale experiments and demonstrations

A yellow precipitate forming in a clear liquid against a black background

Precipitation reactions of lead nitrate

Compare the colours of various lead compounds to identify which would be good pigments in this microscale practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Some reactions of sulfur dioxide

Observe the reactions of sulfur dioxide with potassium manganate (IV), iodide/iodate mixture and indicator solution

A close-up photograph of spiral-shaped brass turnings

The determination of copper in brass

Try this microscale class practical to investigate how much copper there is in brass using nitric acid. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A plastic model of a molecule of hydrogen sulfide, with a yellow sulfur atom and two white hydrogen atoms

Microscale reactions of hydrogen sulfide

Observe the reactions of hydrogen sulfide with lead nitrate, silver nitrate and potassium manganate(VII) in this microscale practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A 3D illustration of a molecule of ammonia, with a nitrogen atom in blue and three hydrogen atoms in white

Microscale reactions of ammonia

Try this practical to explore the reactions of ammonia with indicator solution, copper(II) sulfate solution and Nessler’s reagent. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Measuring density

Determine the density of seawater and tap water by measuring their relative mass and volume

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The chemistry of thiosulphate ions

Find out about some interesting chemical reactions of sodium thiosulphate

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Some reactions of nitrogen dioxide

Discover some reactions of nitrogen dioxide

A scientist wearing disposable gloves holds indicator paper over a slice of lemon and a bar of soap

Testing acids and bases on a microscale

Test various substances with indicator solution and look for colour changes in this microscale class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A hand pressing the zero or tare button on a laboratory balance

Mass changes in chemical reactions

Perform two chemical reactions to see whether any mass changes occur in this microscale class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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The oxidation of cyclohexanol by nitric acid

Perform a ring opening oxidation using nitric acid to produce the dicarboxylic acid, 1,6-hexanedioic acid (adipic acid) – and then use the solid crystals that form to determine a melting point

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Chromium, molybdenum and tungsten

Demonstrate aspects of colour, precipitate formation, changes in oxidation state and equilibria for transition elements

Test tubes containing yellow, red and orange substances formed by the combination of two solutions

Brady’s test for aldehydes and ketones

Identify aldehydes and ketones using Brady’s reagent (2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine) in this microscale experiment. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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The chemical properties of hydroxybenzene

Observe and interpret some of the chemical reactions of hydroxybenzene (phenol) inside a plastic petri dish

A plastic model of a molecule of ethyne, with two carbon atoms in black and two hydrogen atoms in white

Preparing and testing ethyne (acetylene)

Generate ethyne gas with calcium carbide and test its properties in this microscale class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A brown precipitate at the bottom of a glass beaker labelled with the chemical formula for iron(II) hydroxide

Observing chemical changes

Try this microscale practical to explore the chemical changes in displacement, redox and precipitation reactions. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

An illustration with red and blue circles representing particles of two gases mixing

Diffusion of gases on a microscale

Try this class practical to explore the diffusion of gases and how relative molecular mass affects rate of diffusion. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Redox chemistry with dichromate ions

Observe the colour changes that occur with the reduction of dichromate ions by hydrogen peroxide

A pile of scrap iron with brown rust visible

Oxidation states of iron

Compare the two main oxidation states of iron and consider explanations for differences in this microscale practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A close-up photograph of shiny copper shavings

Microscale reactions of metals with acids

Try this class practical to explore reactivity series with various metals as they react with acids on a microscale. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A photograph showing potassium permanganate in a glass beaker

Unsaturation test with potassium manganate(VII)

Use a solution of potassium manganate to test for unsaturation in organic compounds in this microscale practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Properties of group 2 elements

Observe and interpret the changes when drops of various anion solutions are added to drops of group 2 element cations

A close-up photograph of a glass test tube containing a light brown liquid

Testing for unsaturation with bromine on a microscale

Try this class experiment to prepare elemental bromine and use it to test for unsaturation in organic compounds. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Oxygen and methylene blue

Test for oxygen gas produced from the reaction between hydrogen peroxide and potassium manganate (VII) using methylene blue solution

A close-up photograph of a pile of white aspirin pills on a blue paper background

Synthesis of aspirin on a microscale

Use this class practical to produce aspirin in a microscale esterification reaction using phosphoric acid as a catalyst. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

thermometer strip

Energy changes in neutralisation

Study energy changes in two chemical reactions by performing the experiment on temperature strips

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Formation of TCP (2,4,6-trichlorohydroxybenzene)

Prepare a distinctive-smelling sample of TCP by reacting hydroxybenzene (phenol) with chlorine gas

Three brown glass vials labelled as containing silver nitrate on a white-grey laboratory bench

Investigating redox reactions on a microscale

Carry out two redox reactions and observe and interpret the results in this microscale class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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The microscale synthesis of indigo dye

Carry out a microscale organic synthesis to produce indigo dye

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Finding out how much salt there is in seawater

Use the microscale titration apparatus to titrate silver nitrate solution against sea water

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The treatment of oil spills

Clean up a microscale oil spill and discuss the application of chemistry in tackling real-life environmental problems

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Some reactions of carbon dioxide

Create carbon dioxide from marble chips and acid, then test for its reaction with barium hydroxide by observing the carbonate precipitate

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The microscale synthesis of azo dyes

Create fabric dye by synthesising an azo dye and using it to change the colour of a piece of cotton

A section of the Periodic Table with the tiles for elements in Group 1 and 2 visible in red and orange respectively

Sulfate and carbonate solubility of Groups 1 and 2

Try this microscale practical to explore the properties of elements in Groups 1 and 2 as they form various precipitates. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Measuring an equilibrium constant on a microscale

Use your microscale titration apparatus to determine the equilibrium constant for the reaction between silver(I) and iron(II) ions

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Properties of the carvones

Test the smell of each enantiomer of carvone and detect the differences

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Measuring the amount of vitamin C in fruit drinks

Use titration to determine how much vitamin C is in a fruit drink

A strip of magnesium becomes coated with dark brown copper as it reacts with blue copper sulfate solution

Displacement reactions of metals on a microscale

Examine the reactions between various metals and metal salt solutions in this microscale class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

Four glass containers with bromothymol blue indicator solution displaying different colours, including red, yellow, green and blue

Electrolysis using a microscale Hoffman apparatus

Investigate the electrolysis of sodium sulfate solution using a microscale Hoffman apparatus in this class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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The chemistry of silver

Delve into the properties of silver compounds with redox reactions, complex formation and colour/state changes

A section of the Periodic Table with the tiles for various transition metals

Transition elements and complex compounds

Try this microscale practical investigating the transition elements, complex formation and change in oxidation state. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

Macro photograph of white tablets marked with the word aspirin

Analysis of aspirin tablets on a microscale

Try this microscale class practical to analyse aspirin tablets and find out how much salicylic acid is present. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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The temperature changes induced by evaporation

Use a thermometer strip to examine temperature changes when drops of different liquids evaporate

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Properties of stereoisomers

Discover the differences in smell of the two enantiomers of limonene

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Using a microscale conductivity meter

Let your students test which solids and solutions/liquids conduct electricity with a microscale conductivity meter

A full-frame photograph of small copper granules

Microscale extraction of copper

In association with

Try this practical to reduce copper(II) oxide to copper using hydrogen, revealing their positions in the reactivity series. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

potion labels

Practical potions microscale | 11–14 years

Observe chemical changes in this microscale experiment with a spooky twist.

A photo of small bottles and spot plates

Microscale technicians in trouble! investigation

Some solutions have been mixed up – help the technicians work out which is which

More microscale experiments and demonstrations

About this collection

A number of the practicals and demonstrations featured on this page are based on experiments previously published in Microscale chemistry: experiments in miniature.

To read the book, you can buy a copy from our online bookshop where Royal Society of Chemistry members receive a 35% discount.