Find a penny, pick it up, and give it a shiny makeover.
We have a jar of coins that look dull and grimy that Peas and Pie are always trying to get their hands on. They finally had a chance to play with them by using chemistry to give the coins a shiny new makeover.
For this shiny penny activity you’ll need:
Pennies – the duller, the better (we experimented with other coins as well)
Vinegar – about a quarter to half cup
Salt – about a teaspoon
Two non-metal bowls or plastic containers – one for the vinegar solution and one for a water rinse.
You can also add lemon juice to the vinegar solution and scrub the pennies with an old toothbrush.
Steps to a shiny penny:
First, covere the table in paper towels to soak up any spills and give your pennies a nice place to dry.
Next, mix your vinegar solution.
Once it’s was all mixed up, drop your pennies in for 10 seconds to about 5 minutes.
Finally, take them out of the vinegar and rinse them in water – either under a faucet or in a bowl of water.
Let them dry and admire how shiny they are!
Peas and Pie also scrubbed their pennies and other coins clean with an old toothbrush before laying them out to dry.
How it works:
Pennies are made of copper, and they look shiny when they’re new. The older a penny gets, the duller and dirtier it will look.
The reason for this is in the atoms.
Atoms are the tiny particles that makes up all the things you see. Some things are made of a lot of different kinds of atoms because they’re made of a lot of different elements. Other things are made up of a lot of only one kind of atom.
Pennies are made of copper and zinc, and this means they’re made up of a whole lot of copper atoms.
Over time, the copper atoms in the pennies and oxygen atoms in the air join and form copper oxide. This makes the penny appear dull and dirty.
The vinegar and salt in your bowl react to remove the copper oxide from your pennies. You could also use a mixture of salt and lemon juice, orange juice, or even soda to do the same thing.
If you don’t rinse your pennies after putting them in your vinegar, a chemical called malachite will form on your pennies and turn them greenish-blue.
More fun facts about copper and pennies:
Over the years, pennies have gone through a lot of changes in what they’re made of. They’ve been made of bronze (copper, zinc, and tin), copper and nickel, and zinc-coated steel.
Abraham Lincoln is the face of pennies today, but the first pennies had a picture of a sun and sundial, flying eagle, and a Native American princess. In fact, Benjamin Franklin designed the very first penny in 1787, more than 70 years before Abraham Lincoln was president.
Copper was the first metal to ever be used by humans.
Copper is a great conductor of electricity.
Copper is recyclable.
Copper is an essential mineral that we all need in our diets to stay healthy.
According to the National Park Service, the Statue of Liberty is made of 62,000 pounds of copper. When it was originally built, it was a dull copper color, but it’s turned green over the years due to a chemical reaction between the copper, air, and water. The torch is still a bright gold color because it is covered in gold leaf.
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