This upcoming school year, my kids and I will be learning chemistry. I decided to start the year with this fun and easy spinach chromatography experiment inspired by the book Fizz, Bubble, and Flash! Element Explorations and Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!
My kids learned that even though spinach leaves are green, there are actually many different colored molecules within spinach. Chromatography is a process that separates out the different molecules within a substance.
Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes leaves green, but there are other color molecules within leaves as well, such as red, orange, brown, and yellow. Normally, the green chlorophyll dominates the other colors making leaves appear green. In the fall, when it gets cold, some plants stop producing as much chlorophyll allowing their other colors to show instead.
- isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- spinach leaves
- coffee filter
- mason jar (we used a 16 ounce jar)
- mason jar lid
- fork (or spoon)
- tape (any kind)
- Rip up some spinach into small pieces and put them into a jar.
- Fill up the jar until it is about 1/3 full.
- Pour isopropyl alcohol into jar just until the spinach is covered.
- Stir the spinach and alcohol together.
- Place the lid on the jar and shake it up. Let is sit for an hour shaking it occasionally.
- Cut out a strip of coffee filter paper.
- Tape the filter paper to the edge of the mason jar such that the end of the paper dips into the spinach “juice.”
- Check the paper periodically and you should see the colors begin to separate!
This is what the filter paper looked like a couple hours later…
And a couple hours after that…
And the next day…
Remember to remind the children that spinach is green because of all the green chlorophyll molecules inside it, but it contains other color molecules as well.
Have fun with your young chemists!