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Chromatography Butterfly

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Chemistry Volunteer Activities
Main Image
Chemistry Volunteer Activities
Activity Language
Time Needed for Activity

Watch water flow up a coffee filter and separate the dye in a permanent marker, then create a butterfly with the end result.

What You Need

Materials per student

  • 1 white coffee filter 

  • 1 marker

  • 1 small glass or bowl of water

  • 1 pipe cleaner

  • Tools: scissors

Guide:

What To Do

To make a butterfly, each student will:

  • Draw a thick circle with their marker around the middle of the coffee filter where the ribbed part meets the smooth flat middle part.
  • Fold the coffee filter in half three times to make a cone shape.
  • Fill a small glass or small bowl with water.
  • Place and balance the cone-shaped coffee filter on top of the glass of bowl by pulling the top apart gently.
    • Note: Just the white tip of the cone should be touching the water (not the part with the marker!). If needed, students can hold it until the water has passed the marker circle.
  • Let it sit and watch what happens when the water flows up the coffee filter.
  • Once the water has reached the edge of the filter, take it out of the glass and let it dry on some newspaper or piece of paper.
  • Cut the pipe cleaner in half.
  • Scrunch the coffee filter in the middle and wrap the pipe cleaner around the middle to form a butterfly.

Discovery

What's Happening?

Coloured markers are made up of mixtures of coloured dyes. When the water reaches your marker circle, the water will separate the dyes as it travels up the coffee filter, and you see the separation in different colours.

What's Happening?

Coloured markers are made up of mixtures of coloured dyes. When the water reaches your marker circle, the water will separate the dyes as it travels up the coffee filter, and you see the separation in different colours.

Investigate Further

Do some experimenting
Try making a  paper butterfly with a different colour marker (not a permanent marker) to see if the same colours separate on the coffee filter.

Investigate Further

Do some experimenting
Try making a  paper butterfly with a different colour marker (not a permanent marker) to see if the same colours separate on the coffee filter.

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