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Chemistry lessons for 11-14 and 14-16 year-olds on combustion, carbon chains, or chemical formulae with short (10-30 minutes), medium (30-60 minutes), or long (60+ minutes) activities investigating the properties of RP-1 rocket fuel. They are based on video clips of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES from the Royal Institution, the UK's iconic science series on TV.

To use the resource, you'll need the Teachers Guide for the length of activity you want, alongside the video clip.

Short activity, view and discuss (10-30 minutes):
View this clip with your class to augment lessons on:
- Hydrocarbons
- Combustion and the fire triangle
- Exothermic reactions
- Energy in food
- Boiling point
A worksheet is available with questions that draw on concepts in the clip. Feel free to distribute this to your class to be filled out after viewing, or simply use it a guide for discussion.
There is also an information sheet with additional facts, figures, and explanations to help lead the session.

Medium activity, flashpoint and volatility experiments (30-60 minutes):
Tie the clip into a lesson on the properties of carbon compounds. The reactivity and volatility of carbon compounds depends on their temperature and the length of their carbon chains.

Long activity, distillation lab (60+ minutes):
If there is a full-class chemistry laboratory available, consider exploring how rocket fuel is made with a distillation experiment. This may be done separately or leading on from the flashpoint and volatility experiments above. If linked, consider using a mixture of vegetable oil and the alcohol instead of water and alcohol. The idea of this experiment is to take advantage of the different boiling points of different carbon compounds in order to isolate them.


Video link:
Rocket fuel https://youtu.be/x3F8YxRutn4

English curriculum links can also be downloaded.

This resource is part of Tim Peake's Principia mission education programme, supported by the UK Space Agency and ESA.

Creative Commons "Sharealike"

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