UW Today

February 22, 2012

AAAS Notebook: Elephant toothpaste as catalyst to engage public in science

News and Information

UW's Michael Heinekey, children and parents watch the colorful foam generated during a demo of catalysts and chemical reactions.

UW’s Michael Heinekey, children and parents watch the colorful foam generated during a demo of catalysts and chemical reactions.U of Washington

Thousands of scientists attended American Association for Advancement of Science sessions on topics ranging from autism to quantum cryptography. Downstairs, schoolchildren came in droves for the popular Family Science Days. The National Science Foundations booth featured members of the Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis, a national center based at the UW, who showed young visitors how catalysts can speed up chemical reactions. Watch the elephant toothpaste demonstration to get a taste of what the young conference-goers saw.

The presenters included UW chemistry professor Michael Heinekey, chemistry postdoctoral researcher Joe Meredith, chemistry graduate student Tristan Tronic and staff member Eve Perara, the centers director of diversity, education and outreach. And for once, you can try this at home. Find the elephant toothpaste recipe here.

Nearby, UW members of the national Center on Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research showed how a battery can store solar energy and use it to drive a toy car. They also had kids toss blue, red and yellow beanbags against a solar panel to learn how different wavelengths of light convert to electricity.

Chemistry postdoctoral researcher Joe Meredith explains the demonstration.

Chemistry postdoctoral researcher Joe Meredith explains the demonstration.U of Washington