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Use the Cleaning Up with Iron Chemical Demonstration Kit to present the “potential” of using metallic iron in permeable reactive barriers to clean polluted groundwater. This display shows how advances in science have improved our lives.

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Demonstrate the “potential” of using metallic iron to clean up contaminated groundwater! The chemical principle is simple—iron is a good reducing agent. It reduces toxic organic compounds, such as chlorinated solvents, and converts them to less harmful substances. In this demonstration, organic dyes are used as model substrates to illustrate the ability of metallic iron to reduce organic compounds. Interesting background information provided with the kit relates the color changes that are observed in this demonstration to the properties of permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) containing iron. PRBs are an excellent example of new technology that was created to solve environmental problems. Since 1994, when they were first invented, PRBs have been installed at more than 50 hazardous waste sites across the country! Use this simple demonstration to show students how advances in “simple science” have improved our lives and our environment. 

Concepts: Groundwater remediation, oxidation–reduction, permeable reactive barrier, chlorinated organic solvents.
Time Required: One class period


Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
MS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
HS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
HS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Crosscutting Concepts

Patterns
Cause and effect
Stability and change

Performance Expectations

MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
HS-PS1-2. Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and percapita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.