Science Club | Newsletter

Between Peta and Georgia sparks fly…literally

In the weeks preceding the crazy experiment Science Club was alight with excitement at the prospect of a new and interesting experiment… using two people, some crocodile clips and the Van de Graaff generator to light a Bunsen Burner. Although this may sound simple there were some real trials and tribulations in the build up to the final experiment e.g. whether to keep the Van de Graaff on to continue charging Georgia with electrons whilst Peta touched the Bunsen, when to turn on the gas tap, whether to earth the Bunsen Burner…the list goes on and on.

After several weeks of failed experiments with sparks literally flying between tights to sizzling uniform and demented-looking hair, it all went down on 15th May. Mr Trotter came to observe the experiment and suggested that we earth the Bunsen Burner. With help from Miss Samuels and a few year nine students weeks before, and the dedication from Miss Campbell throughout, this experiment looked very promising despite past failures.

Fortunately, I suggested we video this experiment in anticipation of our success. I pressed the big red button, Miss Campbell turned on the Van de Graaff to which Georgia clung with one hand. Georgia’s other hand grasped Peta, standing nervously in a tray, isolated from the ground. After a short time charging, both Peta’s and Georgia’s hair stood on end… literally! This was a sure-fire sign that Peta was sufficiently charged to light the Bunsen.

The Van der Graaf was left on and with her free hand, Peta pointed bravely at the Bunsen Burner. Then…fire! An orange flame exploded from the Bunsen Burner and the roars of excitement from my peers following weeks of failed (but still fun) attempts manifested the shared exhilaration of it finally working.

A very important reminder to avoid rubbing insulators together near flammable vapour!

Catherine McCormack, 10.1