Chemistry of Color


The Chemistry of Color videos highlight the real-world chemistry of paint. Videos in this series investigate the composition of paint, the chemical make-up of pigments, the technology used to match paint samples, as well as the future potential of paint. They are part of a larger Chemistry of Color resource collection, sponsored by PPG.
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    What is Paint? Video

    This video investigates the composition of paint, while analyzing the fundamental chemistry principles of its main components. Students will learn about the differences between three common paint types, water colors, oil-based and acrylic paint as well as the chemistry of each.

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    What are Pigments? Video

    This video discusses the chemistry of pigment molecules and how they are used to give paints their specific color. Students will learn about the importance of a pigment’s molecular structure, how they are physically suspended to create a paint color, as well as how they interact with light.

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    Color Matching Paint Video

    This video explains how technology, specifically focusing on spectrophotometry, can be used for paint matching. Students will learn how the spectrophotometer interacts with the spectrum of visible light in order to match or reproduce specific paint colors.

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    The Future of Paint Video

    This video explores the fascinating and innovative scientific advancements of paint. Students will learn how the molecular components in paint are helping to evolve in the world around them. Futuristic paint is capable of replacing light switches, conducting electricity, and regulating temperature amongst other things!

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    Understanding Light & Color

    In this lesson students use spectroscopes to analyze the colors of sunlight reflected off a white surface, and determine various colors of light emitted by a multicolor LED bulb at different color settings. They predict what color an object will appear when observed under a certain color of light, and test their predictions with the LED bulb. Students explore how a color wheel can provide a useful model for determining the colors of light an object may absorb or reflect. Finally, students will investigate the color yellow. Many objects that appear yellow are not reflecting yellow light, but reflecting green and red. Students use their spectroscopes to search for objects that truly reflect yellow light.

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    Exploring the Chemistry of Oil and Acrylic Paints

    In this lesson students learn about the chemistry of oil and acrylic paints. They make their own paint, and complete an experiment to collect qualitative and quantitative data through a series of tests. Students will also apply the concepts of physical and chemical change to the results of this controlled experiment.

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    How Fast Does it Flow?

    In this lesson students explore the viscosity of different mixtures. They measure viscosity of different mixtures and then have the opportunity to design a mixture to attain a particular viscosity. Students will relate their lab experience to the application of viscosity in the real-world as they consider the differences in viscosity between different types of paints.

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    What is Paint? A Paint Investigation

    In this lesson students will investigate the components of paint. The students will research, organize, and prepare a presentation on the four main components of paint: pigments, binders, solvents, and additives. They will also propose a solution to an environmental issue caused by paint components. During the lesson, students will model how paint components interact at the molecular level.

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    What Type of Mixture is Paint?

    In this lesson students will use simple laboratory tests to characterize differences between solutions, colloids, and suspensions. They will then apply those tests to paints to classify them as specific types of mixtures.

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    What's in a Name? What's in a Glaze?

    In this lesson students will learn about some of the chemical compounds involved in the art of pottery by practicing naming and writing formulas for ionic compounds commonly found in components of glazes for ceramics.

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    Let it Glow

    In this lesson students will investigate the fluorescence of a variety of everyday items as well as prepared samples under a black light. Students will examine the concepts of absorption and subsequent emission of photons, as well as wavelength, frequency, and energy of electromagnetic radiation. As extension activities, students will learn about phosphorescence and research real-life applications of photoluminescence.

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    Single Displacement Reactions with Test Tube Diagrams

    In this lesson students will perform and analyze two single displacement reactions and prepare and manipulate Test Tube Diagrams to depict the activity at the molecular level. Using manipulatives representing individual ions, atoms and molecules for the various reactants and products, they will accurately represent species in the solid, gaseous and aqueous states by correlating the Test Tube Diagram to the complete ionic equation for each reaction. They will determine the reactants and products responsible for color, as well as identify which species is oxidized and which is reduced.

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    Do it Yourself Color!

    In this lesson students will use solubility rules to predict whether the product of a double displacement or metathesis reaction will produce a precipitate. Students will then investigate a series of reactions to verify solubility rules. Finally students will determine the identity of unknown solutions based on experimental evidence.

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    Transition Metals Color the World

    In this lesson students will complete a series of double replacement reactions to form precipitates. The precipitates will be used as a pigment to create paint.

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    Fading Away

    In this lesson students will explore photodegradation of color. First, students will view how fading of paint has affected Van Gogh’s great works of art and the efforts that are being taken to conserve these works. While exploring, students will actively engage in research to relate the fading process to redox reactions, X-Ray diffraction, solute-solvent interactions, and light/energy calculations. Students will then act as an Engineering Task Force and brainstorm to identify how photodegradation affects modern day objects and plan how to address their fading in an effort to market to the airliner Jetstar

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    The Great Race: A Study of van der Waals Forces

    In this lesson students will investigate intermolecular attractive forces, van der Waals forces. They will construct models of specified molecules and use the models to identify the van der Waals forces that exist between molecules of each substance (London dispersion forces, dipole-dipole forces and hydrogen bonds). Then, using manometers, teams will perform a series of races to determine which substance has the stronger van der Waals forces.

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    Introduction to Color

    In this lesson students explore the properties related to color and how those properties vary with changes in concentration. This lesson introduces the use of a spectrophotometer to measure wavelength and absorbance in colored solutions as well as the use of Beer’s Law to determine an unknown concentration.

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    Removing Copper Stains from Masonry

    In this lab, students investigate the use of milk of magnesia poultice to remove copper stains on masonry in copper architecture. They use chalk as the model for masonry, copper(II) chloride solution as a model for soluble copper and a freshly prepared slurry of copper phosphate as a model for a hard stain of copper on masonry. Through a series of investigations students have the opportunity to connect chemistry topics with real-world applications, such as environmental hazards, engineering practices of copper architecture, corrosion control, and structural protection.

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    Rustbusters! A Lab Activity on Corrosion

    In this lesson students learn about factors affecting the rate of corrosion and evaluate the efficiency of different protective coatings to simulate products used in industry when building metal structures like ships or bridges.

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    Color Solar Power!

    In this lesson students will make a dye-sensitized solar cell (also known as DSC or Gratzel cell) using extracts from blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, red cabbage, strawberries, beetroot, spinach and dried hibiscus petals. Students will measure the voltage and the current of various light sources using the created solar cells and then compare the effectiveness of each.

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    Using Color to Identify an Unknown

    In this lesson students will utilize spectrophotometry to identify the wavelength of maximum absorbance for a food dye. They will also generate a Beer's Law Standard Curve, and utilize their skills to identify the different dyes and their concentrations in an unknown mixture. The lesson culminates with an extension to utilizing a similar method in color matching paint.