Flat Stanley Visits Bergman Lab at UC Berkeley College of Chemistry

College of Chemistry — Bergman Lab

Mrs. Roine’s 5th grade class at Havens Elementary School sent me to meet some chemists at UC Berkeley. Melanie and Jason invited me in to their laboratory, where they study all kinds of things like how to use plants to make fuel and how to use metals to do chemistry.

They were wearing white lab coats and lab glasses, and I got to wear some too! Chemicals can be dangerous, but these things kept us safe.

Melanie and Jason have a box that looks like it has rubber hands sticking out of it. They told me there is no air inside the box, so they can do different kinds of experiments with the metals inside. I found out that even air can be part of a chemical reaction.

I wanted to know what it was like with no air, so they helped me climb into this tunnel. It was dark when they closed the door.

Melanie helped me climb out the other side and I was in there! It felt a little like being under water. I held my breath.

When I came out I got to do an experiment! First, I put some water in a flask.

Then I got a piece of dry ice. It was even colder than regular ice, and Melanie and Jason said it’s not made out of frozen water like regular ice is. They said it was a frozen gas called carbon dioxide.

I got to put the dry ice into the water and then I could see that it really was different from regular ice. It made a spooky, smoky looking white gas that was the carbon dioxide. I learned that even a gas like carbon dioxide can be frozen and made solid!

I was ready for another experiment. Mark joined us and Jason gave me some pennies. Pennies are made out of a metal called copper. These chemists really like metals, so they wanted to show me how two metals can mix together to make an alloy.

Mark had a beaker all ready with a liquid in it. The liquid looked clear, but he said there was a different metal in there. This metal is called zinc. Soon my penny changed color! It looks silver. That is because the zinc attached itself to the copper on the surface of the penny.

Mark and Jason heated up my new silver penny for me in a flame and I watched it change color again! It looks gold now. Mark said that the penny turned gold because the heat from the torch mixed the copper and zinc metals on the surface of the penny. Mixing the copper and zinc metals made a new material, an alloy, that is gold colored and called brass.

After I did my experiments, it was time to climb back in my envelope for the next adventure. I won’t forget how fun it was to be a chemist, and I’m bringing my special pennies back to school to show to you.

Miriam Bowring, Melanie Chiu, Mark Crimmin, and Jason Nichols Bergman Group, College of Chemistry, UC Berkeley