Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

Wintergreen Science Projects

    • Oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate) has the incredible property of absorbing shorter wavelengths of light and emitting longer wavelengths, which essentially makes a subtle light brighter. Although oil of wintergreen can be hard to find, wintergreen LifeSavers are the perfect material to use for a science project because they contain this oil. Crushing or chewing them (or even dissolving them in water, to a lesser degree) creates triboluminescence, or flashes of light caused by friction. There are several science projects you can do that take advantage of this property, and others, of oil of wintergreen.

    Creating Sparks

    • A simple demonstration of triboluminescence is interesting, and you can use it as the basis for a science project. To do this, go into a dark room and wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then chew a wintergreen LifeSaver with your mouth open, facing a mirror. (Alternatively, crush it with a hammer.) You will see a flash of light as the sugar molecules press against each other and produce friction in the presence of the oil of wintergreen inside of the candy.

      To make this into a more complex project, consider testing to see whether triboluminescence is impacted by temperature by freezing or heating the candy and then performing the demonstration. Alternatively, try using regular and sugar-free wintergreen LifeSavers to see whether one produces more sparks than the other.

    Dissolving a Lifesaver

    • Does a lifesaver truly dissolve faster if you move it around in your mouth? What if you crush it with your teeth first? You can create a science project to find out. Submerge one wintergreen LifeSaver in a cup of water, and time how long it takes to dissolve. Then submerge a second one in a cup of water and stir the water vigorously while you are timing the dissolving process. Then crush a third LifeSaver before dissolving it in the water and timing it. The results of this project will tell you which of these techniques make a wintergreen LifeSaver last longer, or whether they have any effect at all.

    Exploding a Soda Bottle

    • You'll have a blast with this demonstration. Just drop a handful of wintergreen Lifesavers into a 2-liter bottle of soda, and stand back. You'll see the soda explode out of the bottle in a fantastic geyser. To make this demonstration into a more complex science project, consider changing some of the variables of the demonstration. For example, use diet soda and regular soda, or two different brands of soda. Try using fewer wintergreen Lifesavers or dropping them in one at a time. To quantify the differences in explosions (since you may not be able to compare them accurately visually), measure the amount of soda left in the bottle after the explosion occurs.

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