Chemical Change

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In this chemistry activity, learners explore the amount of copper in a new penny. Learners use toilet bowl cleaner to hollow out the interior of a penny with zinc inside. This experiment will demonstrate how chemical changes can separate matter. Learners can also discuss how zinc is cheaper than copper, in a lesson about economics.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Lots of pennies, 1983 or newer
  • Beaker
  • Liquid toilet bowl cleaner (must contain HCL) or 3M to 6M Hydrochloric acid solution or Muriatic acid or Vinegar
  • Eye protection
  • A rough surface (sidewalk, parking lot, metal file)
  • Glass stirring rod
  • Graduated cylinder


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Acids and Bases
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
      • Elements and Periodic Table
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Financial Literacy


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Muller, Eric


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 1996