6th grade students are studying chemical reactions in science class. Here, students are investigating the properties of two different substances and creating a chemical reaction commonly referred to as “elephant toothpaste” on the Internet. This task helped students discover that in a chemical reaction a new substance forms with new properties.
This chemical reaction comes from hydrogen peroxide mixed with yeast. Yeast is an organism that contains a special chemical called catalase that can act as a catalyst to help break down hydrogen peroxide. Catalase is present in almost all living things that are exposed to oxygen, and it helps them break down naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide. This means that if you mix yeast with hydrogen peroxide, the hydrogen peroxide will rapidly break down into water and oxygen gas. The oxygen gas forms bubbles. These bubbles would usually escape from the liquid and pop quickly. But adding a little dish soap provides additional surface tension, allowing the bubbles to get trapped and creating lots of foam.