MA STEM Week: Chromatography Flowers

You might’ve seen us share chromatography activities before, but this time we encourage you to make a creation with your final product. While we love the fall foliage, this activities gives us a spring flower we can keep indoors until they bloom again!
The Science Behind It:
Did you know that inks and markers are often combinations of several colored dyes? We can separate these combinations of colors or pigments through a process called chromatography. ⁠
When the paper towel is dipped in water, some of the water sticks to the paper towel and gets it wet. There’s a force between the water molecules and the molecules in the paper towel. That’s called adhesion. The water also sticks to itself. That’s called cohesion. Both of these sticky forces – adhesion and cohesion – cause the water to travel up the paper towel, moving against gravity. When the water reaches the ink, it dissolves some of the dyes in the ink, and the dyes travel up the paper towel with the water. That’s how you can see all the different colors that make up the ink. ⁠
1. Draw a squiggly line across a strip of paper towel with one of your black pens or markers. ⁠
2. Using a dropper, slowly drop drips of water onto the line.⁠
3. Observe what happens and record your results. ⁠
4. Let your paper towel dry. Now observe your squiggly line. Compare the results to what it looked like immediately after it became wet. ⁠
5.Pull up from the center of the paper towel and form a cylinder shape with the towel to look like flowers. Puncture a hole in the tip of the flower and use pipe cleaner to create a stem. Add to a vase or display it alone!
Try it out with different types of pens. Does a scented marker make a different pattern than a non-scented marker? What happens if you use a dry erase marker or a sharpie? What about a gel pen or ball point pen?
Thank you to National Grid, our official STEAM Partner for sponsoring this STEM week activity!

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