Exploring science and nature

Explora Science is all about exploring science and in particular – those particular aspects of science that affect the immediate world around us. I began by focussing something that everyone is aware of – Global Warming –  and thought I would see if there are some investigations that could be performed by school kids to find the real effects on a macro scale. It is one thing talking about how polar ice-caps are melting but an entirely different thing to actually play around with CO2, water vapour, methane and Nitrous Oxide to see what the actual tangible effects of them are.

I am also adding a few rough guides to science projects at home that can carry the imagination all the way through a long summer holiday without making your brain melt and come out of your ears!

I hope that by using some of the ideas and videos on this site then people will not think of global gases – nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide etc as something alien and “only for boffins” but something very real and tangible which is very much within our abilities to consider and control.

The gaseous global warming experiments will be part of a series of trials and investigations that are generally open ended, so feel free to take them as far as required.

This gives you idea of the easy fun that can be had at explora-science without the need for a great deal of equipment. You will however need to go shopping for some slightly specialist stuff.

Nitrous Oxide

For nitrous oxide try somewhere selling whipped cream supplies such as creamchargers.org.uk  they will sell little 8gm chargers and dispensers that will be suitable for most applications. It is also possible to make it yourself using methods described here. It all really depends upon how much time you have available and whether you see the manufacturing as part of the process. We like to think that perhaps you should always try to make everything the first time and then, when you have proved that you can do it it’s OK to go shopping for the rest of it!

Nitrous Oxide in Nature

Nitrous oxide is one of the most damaging gases in nature, being regarded as one of the main gases that harm the ozone layer of our planet. Even though it is one of the primary gases that is released through industrial processes, nitrous oxide is also produced during the process of decomposition, which is a natural process.  In 2010, nitrous oxide accounted for a total of 4% of all the greenhouse gases that were emitted in to the atmosphere. Even though there are several natural resources which result in the production of nitrous oxide, manmade activities such as agriculture, combustion of fossil fuels as well as various waste processes and industrial activities have drastically increased the overall percentage of emission of this gas.

Nitrous oxide cannot be used in a standard vehicle, because the foundations of the engine have to be properly reinforced before application. Nitrous oxide is also used as an anesthesia in dentistry as well, and has been done so since the December of 1844, where Horace Wells made the first ever dental operations using this gas.

Nitrous oxide is known frequently as a laughing gas (it makes you laugh). It is a chemical compound with a formula of N20. When it is at room temperature, distinguishing the gas is impossible as it is colorless, and non flammable. However, it does give out a sweet odor and a gently sweet taste. Nitrous oxide is used commonly in anesthesia, mainly because it has analgesic effects too. For those who inhale it, nitrous oxide makes the person laugh, leaving behind a euphoric effect. Obviously, this application has led the gas to be used frequently for recreational purposes as well.

A study conducted by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that stricter limits need to be introduced in order to prevent the ozone layer from being significantly damaged. Nitrous oxide is produced when nitrogen is added to the soil with the usage of aerosols and manmade fertilizers. The emission of nitrous oxide in agriculture is also the largest source of nitrous oxide which is released in to the atmosphere.

Preparation of nitrous oxide is done commonly by carefully heating ammonium nitrate. After heating, ammonium nitrate decomposes in to water vapor and nitrous oxide. Several different phosphates are added, which help in the formation of the gas at significantly lower levels of temperature.

It has been estimated that around 10 million tons of nitrous oxide is released in to the atmosphere on a yearly basis. Around a third of the emissions from across the world come from synthetic activities such as the use of synthetic fertilizers, manure, combustion from fossil fuels and other activities. Around two thirds of the gas is released in to the atmosphere through natural processes, where soil bacteria is commonly responsible for emitting the gas in to the atmosphere. Many scientists have concluded that the emissions of nitrous oxide need to be limited, so that the ozone layer can begin to improve from its already depleted state.

more info here





Carbon Dioxide

The simplest way to get this (in an impure form) is simply to blow into a balloon – although to be fair this is only really useful for comparing with pre-inhaled air rather than actually getting a source. To buy in oure form then you’ll need soda-stream cartridges from here or CO2 cylinders for inflating tyres from a place such as  Halfords. They are all pressurised cylinders so really need the relevant pressure vessels to ensure a safe release of the gas in a controlled fashion


This is the main constituent of a domestic gas supply – the camping gas in the canisters is usually butaen, which is same, same but a bit different.