Mechanical, Electrical and Radiant Energy
High School of Hospitality Management, Manhattan
Summer Research Program for Science Teachers
Name:_____________________________________ Date:_________ Period:______
Aim/Problem: What happens when we crush a wintergreen lifesaver in the dark?
Hypothesis: (In the space below answer: What do you think will happen and WHY?)
Supplies: pliers, wintergreen lifesavers, resealable plastic bag
***Optional procedure: Each student is given a candy and assigned a partner. Lights are turned out and wait several minutes. Then partner one will chew the candy with their mouth open. Then partner number two will go once partner one is done.
The sugar and the menthol in the candy give off a blue-white light when crushed. Mechanical energy from the pliers breaks the candy structure. This breaks the bonds between atoms, causing electrons to be separated unevenly. For example, the electron from a hydrogen atom that is shared with an oxygen atom remains on the oxygen atom. The hydrogen atom now has a positive charge and the oxygen atom has a negative charge.
Electrons jump across the gap between candy pieces to balance the positive and negative charges that result. As the electrons move though the air, powered by kinetic electrical energy, they strike or run into nitrogen molecules. The electrical energy from the moving electrons causes electrons in nitrogen to move to a higher orbital or shell. The “excited” nitrogen quickly releases this extra energy and the electrons in the nitrogen move back to their original orbital. The extra energy is released as radiant energy in the form of visible blue-white light. This is basically the same phenomenon that causes lighting.
Striking two sugar cubes together will have the same result to a lesser degree. However, you will not be able to observe this reaction with diabetic candy or clear candies.
1.) Using your newfound scientific knowledge (read analysis!!!) what is the spark made out of?
2.) What type of energy:
a. Caused the spark?
b. What type of energy is the spark?
3.) Identify in this experiment what had
a. Potential energy?
b. Kinetic energy?
4.) The spark you saw and lighting are a similar phenomenon. Explain SCIENTIFICALLY why if struck by lighting you would be injured and you weren’t injured by this experiment.
5.) Why would this experiment not work with diabetic candies?
S1 Physical Sciences Concepts
a Demonstrates understanding of properties of objects and materials.
b Demonstrates understanding of position and motion of objects.
c Demonstrates understanding of light, heat, electricity, and magnetism.
S5 Scientific Thinking
a Asks questions about natural phenomena; objects and organisms; and events and discoveries.
b Uses concepts from Science Standards 1 to 4 to explain a variety of observations and phenomena.
c Uses evidence from reliable sources to construct explanations
S7 Scientific Communication
b Uses facts to support conclusions.
S8 Scientific Investigation
a Demonstrates scientific competence by completing an experiment.
b Demonstrates scientific competence by completing a systematic observation