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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 affects the solubility of carbon dioxide in water.

Takes about one class period. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

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 role of CO2 on climate change.
  • Extensions or variations to the experiments are described throughout the experiment.

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 it can 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. Teachers can add that information when they present the lesson.

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

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.1:Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P3.2:Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

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