Microscale  Gas Chemistry
Bruce Mattson, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry
Creighton University, Omaha Nebraska, USA

Getting started making gases (basic equipment you will need and where to order syringes, syringe caps, tubing, etc.) Link to download file page.

Step-by-step instructions for generating gases in large plastic syringes. Watch youtube video!

Three Easy Gases. CO2, H
2 and O2. How to make these gases in syringes, and 20+ chemical experiments and classroom demonstrations with these gases.
Seven Laboratory Experiments. High school and university level experiments that explore physical and chemical properties of gases.

 Link to download these experiments.
Mystery gas. Is the gas H2, O2, CO2, or air?
Percent Composition of CaCO3 in Tums antacid
Carbonated Beverages — Priestley’s Soda-water
Molar Mass - remarkably accurate results!
Limiting Reagent Magnesium + HCl(aq)
Barometric Pressure
without a barometer

All gases. Preparation instructions for many interesting gases with about ten experiments and classroom demonstrations for each.  Gases include  NO, NO2, SO2, C2H2, O3, NH3, Cl2, H2S and ten others. 

Left: Upper syringe had contained colorless NO(g), but as O2(g) is added from the lower syringe, NO2(g) is instantly formed. Right: Underwater fireworks result when Cl2(g) and C2H2(g) are combined in close proximity underwater.

Function and importance of nanoparticles in catalysis, This is a 3-part series on Bringing New Chemistry into  Classroom: Nanoparticles and Catalysis Series. The first part appeared in Chem13 News, 2017, 435, 12-15.

Why Microscale Gas Chemistry?
• It's fun and easy! Easy to learn how. Gases ready in 5 minutes!
• Great labs! Great demos! Students enjoy making gases.
• It's visual! Best way to 'see' a gas is to watch it being produced.
• It's microscale in terms of quantities, but large enough to see - 60 mL.
• It's inexpensive. A syringe of CO2 costs less than 1 cent to produce.
It's green - little or no chemical wastes.

Our Gas Reaction Catalyst Tube can be used to demonstrate a variety of gas phase chemical reactions.  The catalyst contains a layer of disbursed palladium atoms on a ceramic material and enclosed within a glass housing as per the figure. Hydrogenation of alkenes occurs at very temperatures (even < 0 deg C).  A wonderful classroom demonstration shows how a catalytic converter works by transforming CH4 (or any hydrocarbon) + NO2 (the reddish mixture in the left syringe below) into N2 + H2O + CO2 (right syringe -  condensation  droplets of water are often noticed in right syringe).

Gas Bags
For classroom use, gases can be prepared and stored in sealable plastic food bags equipped with a dispensing tube. 

Mini-Ozone Generator
Ozone is generated for in situ use.  The Mini-Ozone generator produces 800 nanomole/minute. Safe and easy to use.  Off the shelf classroom demo that anyone can build. 

Left: Apparatus dispensing O3 to a flask. Right: Close up of the mini-O3 generator showing the pipet bulb reaction chamber in cup of ice.
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Other links and Downloads
History of gas chemistry
Photographs of Joseph Priestley sites in England along with a chronological summary of his life.
Kipp generators
Other microscale gas chemistry methods:

 Link to download pages for
Thermal methods for making HCl, C2H
4, CO, CH4 and N2O
Microwave oven method

Gases in your curriculum
Microscale gas methods by other researchers
About us
Contact us
18th Century and 21st Century Gas Prep Equipment

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Site updated 11 Dec 2017

Our research group, Fall 2017

Recent and current work:
Build a Gas Reaction Catalyst Tube (Pd Nanoparticle Catalyst Tube)
Catalyst tubes such as the one pictured below can be built for about US$2 each.  Details for construction are available that include chemical tests.  Instructions that also address analysis by MS and NMR are also available.

On the Hydrogenation of Alkynes with the
Pd Nanoparticle Catalyst Tube
Alkynes readily react with H2 or D2 upon passing through the catalyst tube even at low temperatures.  Numerous experiments support the reaction pathway illustrated below: Alkyne to alkene via vinyl reversal followed by alkene to alkane via Horiuti-Polanyi mechanism without leaving the surface of the palladium catalyst. This work is currently being performed.  

Incomplete Combustion of H2
Trapping a Reaction Intermediate. A classroom demonstration or descriptive chemistry experiment. Journal of Chemical Education 2007, 84, 1668 - 1670. (Download pdf) or See movie of the demo.

Paramagnetic Oxygen
"Demonstrating the Paramagnetism of Liquid Oxygen with a Neodymium Magnet." A classroom demonstration or descriptive chemistry experiment. Journal of Chemical Education 2007, 84, 1296 - 1298. Download pdf. or See movie of the demo!

Propanol to Propane.
An advanced laboratory experiment using heterogeneous catalysts for two successive gas-phase reactions; appeared in Journal of Chemical Education, March, 2006. Download as a pdf file.

H2 and D2 Uptake on Pd Foil
Hydrogen and palladium foil. Two classroom demonstrations.  1. Physical changes that take place when Pd absorbs H2 and D2. The kinetics of H2 or D2 uptake. Elsbeth Klotz, E.; and Mattson, B.Journal of Chemical Education 2009, 86, 465 – 469. (Download pdf)


H/D Exchange in Methane
 Using the Gas Reaction Catalyst Tube and high temperatures, CH4 exchanges H for D yielding all combinations CH4, CH3D, CH2D2, CHD3 and CD4 ultimately in a statistical distribution.  Isotopologues can be identified by H-NMR and mass spectroscopy.

Deuteration of Ethene and 1-butene
 Using the Gas Reaction Catalyst Tube, C2H4 and 1-butene undergo D/H exchange more rapidly than deuteration, resulting in a complex product distribution of isotopologues/ isotopomers of ethane-dx and butane-dx. The reaction follows the Horiuti-Polanyi mechanism first proposed in 1934.