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Gummy Bear Sacrifice - Energy of Oxidation of Carbohydrates

Description: This demo gives an example of an extremely exothermic reaction. It is also an example
of a decomposition reaction that occurs rapidly when a catalyst (heat) is used. In addition, it provides
the opportunity to apply the glowing splint test to test for the presence of oxygen.

Expectations Addressed: SNC 2D - C2.1, C2.3, C3.3, C3.4, C3.5 SCH3U – C2.2, C2.3, C2.4 SCH4C – B 3.2
SCH4U - D3.5, D3.6, D3.7

Materials Needed:

• one 25x150 mm test tube

• one ring stand with clamp for test tube
• 5-7 grams sodium chlorate (NaClO3)
• Bunsen burner
• one candy gummy bear (any other candy or a wood splint will work)

Hazards: This reaction produces a large quantity of heat, flame, and smoke (mostly water vapor). It
should be done in a well ventilated room. Sodium chlorate should be used with caution. It is a strong
oxidizing agent, especially when molten. Keep all combustible materials away from the reaction
area. Make sure the test tube used is scrupulously clean and the mouth is pointed away from the

Procedure: Set up the stand and clamp, and support the test tube in the clamp in a vertical position.
Add 5-7 grams of sodium chlorate to the test tube (about 1 cm in depth). [Note: potassium chlorate
can be substituted here, but the sodium chlorate has a lower melting point and requires less initial
heating.] Gently heat the tube with the burner until the sodium chlorate is completely molten.
Bubbles of oxygen will begin to form. Remove the burner and use crucible tongs to drop in the
gummy bear, then stand back! For added piece of mind, the reaction can be performed behind a
safety shield.

Disposal: Allow the tube to cool, then remove from the clamp. The tube should be soaked in water
for about 15 minutes and then cleaned with a brush to remove the residue. These chemicals may be
washed down the drain.

Discussion: When heated, sodium chlorate decomposes, producing sufficient oxygen to ignite the
sugar in the gummy bear. Since the oxidation of the sugar is very exothermic, sodium chlorate
continues to decompose to oxygen, and the rate of combustion becomes very rapid.

Other carbohydrate materials may be used for this reaction, e.g. an M&M, gum drop or cinnamon
heart. The size of the candy and test tube should be matched so that the candy will easily fit into the
Gummy Bear Sacrifice - Energy of Oxidation of Carbohydrates
Student Worksheet: Name: ____________________

Questions to be answered before the demo:

1. What is a decomposition reaction?

2. Balance the chemical equations for this reaction.

NaClO3(s)  NaCl(s) + O2(g)

C12H22O11(s) + O2(g)  C(s) + CO2(g) + H2O(g)

3. How do we test for the presence of oxygen in a reaction?

4. Why do we use a catalyst for some reactions? What are some examples of a catalyst?

5. What is the difference between an exothermic and an endothermic reaction?

Questions to be asked after the demo:

1. Why did we use a Bunsen burner in this reaction?

2. Why did we do the glowing splint test before putting the Gummy Bear into the test tube?

3. Examine what the products are.

4. Draw a potential energy diagram of the reaction with and without the catalyst?

Uncatalyzed reaction Catalyzed reaction