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How does Temperature Affect the Solubility of CO2 in Water?

CarboSchools, Carbon science researchers and secondary school teachers invite young people to learn about local and global impacts of climate change, explore scientific research on the topic and act locally to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

This short investigation from Carbo Europe explores how temperature relates to the solubility of carbon dioxide in water.

Takes about one class period. Additional material required.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases / Carbon cycle
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d
Natural processes of CO2 removal from atmosphere is slow; Long residence time of some GHG
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4g

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The educator should identify the level of student understanding of CO2 and its impacts on and connections to global warming prior to doing the activity.
  • Students might also benefit from reviewing content/background on parent site prior to completing the experiment.
  • There is the potential for students to focus on the rate of tablet dissolution, thereby developing misconceptions about the objectives. It is important that the teacher is aware of this for the post-activity discussion.
  • The visual effect of warm and cold water temperature on the rate of CO2 solubility is a great way to debate the roll of CO2 on climate change.
  • Extensions or variations to the experiments are described throughout the experiment description.

About the Science

  • This experiment relates the solubility of CO2 in sea water to varying water temperatures.
  • Increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere leads to increasing air temperatures and, consequently, warming of the oceans.
  • Students set up an experiment using effervescent tablets and readily-available lab tools to visualize how CO2 is more soluble in cold water than warm water. Students hypothesize the global implications.
  • For educators, the content connections on the topic can be found on the CarboSchools website http://www.carboeurope.org/education/schoolsweb.php.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The strengths are that this is a simple activity, it is cheap and had very clear results, and yet may be used to explain quite complex topics.

About the Pedagogy

  • Well-designed and easy-to-follow instructions to this experiment. The sketches and photos of students doing the activity will help students identify with the setup.
  • The "Notes" section is extremely helpful in guiding the students' interpretation of the results.
  • The overall basic design of this activity could benefit from identifying and adding learning objectives as well as addressing the common misconceptions about global warming and rising levels of CO2 levels contributing to global warming.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Lesson could benefit from more scaffolding - elaborating on anecdotal notes on CO2 levels contributing to climate change built into the lesson for students to reflect on rather than within another link/site: http://www.carboeurope.org/education/schoolsweb.php

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