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Buying chemicals

Well I know that it is hard for the general public to buy chemicals, when I was young it was possible to buy some chemicals from the local chemist shops but I imagine that these shops have stopped selling “chemicals”.

I would like to know what is a chemical, I recall that the RSC (www.rsc.org) have offered a large cash prize for the first member of the public to send in a object which is chemical free. http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/2008/ChemicalFree.asp

But what is a chemical ? I hold the view that any substance which is made up of atoms either bonded together by ionic means, covalent means or noble gas atoms flying around is a chemical.

It does not matter if it is part of a mixture or a single substance. Nor does it matter if the substance is man made or natural.

In short all things are made up of atoms, so all things are made of chemicals.

So when you buy a loaf of bread, a can of beer, a dog lead or a chocolate bar you are buying chemicals !

I will comment that some experiments in chemistry can be done with things bought from the supermarket.

I have gone through my local shops and I have found the following things which might be useful for my next home experiments on sale.

Sodium chloride (common salt)

Sodium bicarbonate

Alum (Aluminum potassium sulphate)

Acetic acid (vinegar)

Citric acid (three places, lemons in the fruit section, coffee machine cleaner and in a bag marked citric acid)


Fructose (cake baking section)

gelatine (cake baking section)

Copper wire (hardware shop in the form of electrical cable or an old extension lead which was damaged)

Vitamin C powder

Iron in the form of steel wool (paint and decoration shop)

Iron as steel nails (hardware shop)

Mung bean seeds (great for biology experiments)

Tannin (as tea in tea bags)

The acetyl ester of 2-hydroxybenzoic acid (aspirin)

pH indicator (red cabbage)

Carbon dioxide gas generator (straw in my mouth through which I blow air from my lungs)

If you are going to try any experiments at home then please be good and safe. No nasty fireworks, stink bombs or other bad stuff.

Disclaimer, while Dr Mark Foreman takes all reasonable care to comment on interesting chemistry and create safe and enjoyable experiments I accept no responsibility for any death, injury, disease, property damage, prosecution, criminal court case, tort, civil court case or other adverse outcome resulting from you trying out an experiment of mine or using any information I provide. All experiments are done at your own risk. If you are not an adult you must consult your parents and/or science teacher before trying an experiment. If you are doubt about your ability to do the experiment in a safe manner then do not attempt it. Also I accept no responsibility if your mum/dad/teacher/policeman/(insert some other authority figure) tells you off for doing the experiment. Also I am not responsible for your moral, social and spiritual wellbeing. Also if you hate the experiment and do not enjoy it or are left with an intense feeling of self disgust then again I am not responsible. If you read this disclaimer or anything else I write and have some adverse reaction to my words such as going insane, laughing yourself to death, pushing your blood pressure through the roof or some other effect then again I accept no responsibility. Also if you use information in my blog to answer an exam question then I offer no warranty to how good the information is. If you take material from my blog and try to pass it off as your own when you hand in your home work then I take no responsibility for you or offer any sympathy when your teacher tells you off (I hope that the teacher is reading this blog also)


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