Last week Cordie thought up a fun liver and hydrogen peroxide enzyme experiment. The idea is an interesting extension of elephant toothpaste. And it extends the chemistry learning into biology (useful for homeschool records).
When we make elephant toothpaste we use yeast as a catalyst in the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas. By adding soap and food dye, we get oodles of colourful foam that make for a fun and memorable science lesson.
Cordie recently discovered that liver also contains a catalyst which breaks down hydrogen peroxide. She decided to try to inflate a balloon with the gas produced and to test it for oxygen. (Is it just my kids that love experiments where they get to play with fire?)
You can watch Cordie demonstrating her experiment in the video [4:39] below (with crumpet cameo from Jasper).
What you need
Liver (we used about 200g)
Hydrogen peroxide (we used about 75ml / 1/3 cup of 9% / 30 vol)
Small plastic water bottle
Peg or clip
If you want to test for oxygen you’ll also need:
Splint (thin piece of wood)
What you do
1. Chop the liver and put it into the bottle
2. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the balloon via the funnel
3. Carefully put the neck of the balloon over the bottle so that the hydrogen peroxide pours onto the liver
4. Hold the balloon in place as it inflates with gas, then clip it closed
5. If you want to test the gas, light the splint then extinguish the flame. Immediately insert the still-glowing splint into the bottle
As soon as the hydrogen peroxide touches the liver, foam appears and the bottle gets warm. After a few seconds the balloon begins to inflate.
When you lower the glowing splint into the bottle, the flame rekindles. (My kids’ favourite bit!) There should be enough oxygen to do this over and over again.
Just as with elephant toothpaste, the hydrogen peroxide is broken down into water and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst. (A catalyst speeds up chemical reactions without being changed itself.) The reaction is exothermic – it produces heat.
2H2O2 —-> 2H2O + O2
Liver contains a biological catalyst, the enzyme catalase.
Just as the liver in our experiment breaks down a poisonous chemical into harmless substances, an animal’s liver breaks down toxins and renders them harmless.
Take it further
Heat and cold affect how enzymes work. In Cordie’s science class she timed her experiments using boiled and frozen liver alongside liver at room temperature.
BBC Bitesize – Webpage and video about liver, hydrogen peroxide and enzymes
How to make elephant toothpaste
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Do let me know if you try this. I love hearing from you. 🙂
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20 thoughts on “Enzyme Science Fun – Inflate a Balloon With Liver & Hydrogen Peroxide”
This is fantastic! !
I’m gonna confess, I would not have thought of doing this at all. Very cool.
Me neither, Ticia. It’s very cool when kids start setting up their own experiments, isn’t it?
I am sorry, but you lost me at liver. :p
And what are you feeding Cordie … wow she has sprung up and looks so much more mature … I think you notice it with the girls more so. Mine are so different these days.
I know! I think she’s going to get taller than my 1.73m this year. I’m already wearing her cast offs.?
LOL, Lisa. Yeah it was a rather yucky one!
I have no idea what it all meant (I have the least scientific brain in the world) but it was very impressive!
LOL, Lucy! Thanks. 🙂
This was super impressive!
I think we may need to try this.
I love how it demonstrates how a liver can detoxify something. Fabulous!
Thanks, M. It’s very cool, isn’t it? 🙂
A great experiment! Love the hands-on learning!
Gotta love the video instruction! Easy project to do.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Nita. Yes it was surprisingly easy, if a little icky!
So cool! Tell Cordie I was very impressed with her experiment and loved being able to watch the video showing how she did it. I plan to show my three youngest (12, 9, and 7); I’m sure they’ll want to recreate this!
Thanks, Marla. I’ll tell Cordie. 🙂 Let me know how it goes if your children try it!
Hi thanks for this liver h202 experiment, i substituted the liver for raw potatoes. The reaction did inflate the balloon on top of the bottle. But when I lit a splint e.g. a pencil and extinguished it, but still having a glow, i was unable to relight the pencil after placing it in the bottle.
Do you have any suggestions why this didn’t work for me?