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10/01/12

Glowing cucumbers and a burning baguette: Experimental Lecture at the Freilichtbühne Mülheim

Glowing cucumbers and a burning baguette: Experimental Lecture at the Freilichtbühne Mülheim

 

What have a cucumber, a fresh baguette and a red rose in common? Quite easy: Those objects are in danger when Ferdi Schüth, Wolfgang Schmidt and Andre Pommerin are around. The scientists of the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung performed a Chemical Show at the Freilichtbühne in Mülheim on Friday, 28th of September. 1500 people came to watch it.

The Max Planck Scientists performed 20 different very entertaining experiments and introduced the history of Chemistry to the audience. The audience could see what happens when you connect a cucumber to an electrical source. They could hear how loud a guncotton explosion can be. And they experienced a very special Olympic torch relay: Ferdi Schüth set a French baguette on fire with the help of liquid oxygen and used it as a torch.

What is the perfect way for a chemist to break up a relationship? Of course, he can destroy a red rose, which symbolizes love. At -196 ° C a relationship has cooled off, said Ferdi Schüth, referring to the very low boiling point of nitrogen. Then he took a red rose, dipped it into fluid nitrogen and shattered it on a table. The plant’s structure gets very fragile at this low temperature.

During the short break young people came to the stage and asked about internships and apprenticeships at the institute. And they queued so that Andre Pommerin could perform a small fireball with guncotton in their palms.

Ferdi Schüth’s last experiment was a homage to the industrial history of the Ruhr area. For this final he set up a reaction with thermite, a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum. The product of the reaction was pig iron which dropped on the stage and threw out sparks in a spectacular way.

Many people do not like to look back at their chemistry classes, said Ferdi Schüth. He hopes that he and his colleagues managed to change the audience’s view on chemistry a little bit.