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Exploding sandwich bags experiment

You will need:

  • Resealable sandwich bags (try cheap vs. expensive versions as an experiment)
  • Vinegar
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Tissue paper
  • Cup
  • Spoon and plate
  • An outdoor area
  • Optional: measuring cylinder

    Copyright
Exploding sandwich bag experiment
This sandwich bag is about to pop!

Instructions

 
  1. Add a spoonful of bicarbonate soda into some tissue paper and set to one side. Repeat this several times, each time adding more and more bicarbonate soda.

    Bicarbonate soda on a plate
    Bicarbonate soda ready to go
     
  2. Fill the resealable plastic bag with 100mL of vinegar.
     
  3. Add the tissue paper with the least amount of bicarbonate soda into the resealable bag and seal the opening quickly to stop the produced carbon dioxide from escaping. You'll see that the bag slightly inflates but doesn't pop.
     
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3, each time adding the tissue paper the larger amount of bicarbonate soda until you get the bag to fill up with so much gas that the bag seal pops!

    Exploding sandwich bag experiment
    Exploding sandwich bag about to pop.

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What is going on?

 
  • Vinegar + Bicarbonate Soda ---> Carbonic Acid + Sodium Acetate

    The carbonic acid is unstable though, so it breaks down into water and carbon dioxide, causing the pressure to increase in the sandwich bag until it pops.

The tissue paper was used to slow down the experiment by reducing the contact of the vinegar with bicarbonate soda, at least enough so that you can seal the sandwich bag. The idea of this experiment is not only to investigate chemical reactions but also to look at controlling variables and trialing small changes to see if there is a result.

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