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Particle Size and Spectral Analysis of AgNO3 and Cu: Design Challenge Activity

Silver nitrate experiment
Education Level
High School

When the traditional silver nitrate reduction by copper is performed, students are often puzzled by the black appearance of the silver when it first is observed. In this activity, students will research two questions about the reaction, develop a viable system of gathering data, and investigate the relationship between the silver particle size and time.  They will also observe the absorption spectra as the solution changes from silver nitrate to copper (II) nitrate. The student group will then produce a poster display and verbal presentation of the work they did and the results of their observations. This activity will be done as a design challenge/inquiry type exercise in which the teacher gives an introductory overview then acts as mentor and consultant as students develop, conduct, analyze and present their work.

NOTE:  This lesson uses Vernier Labquest 2 and SpectroVis Plus Spectrophotometer. In addition, it includes access to a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The Remotely Accessible Instruments for Nanotechnology (RAIN) allows schools to remotely use spectrophotometers, SEMs, and an optical microscope free of charge.  Sessions can be scheduled using RAIN’s online system at:

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