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Learners create a small explosion by collecting hydrogen and oxygen gas together and squeezing them into a flame. Two test tubes are used to generate the gases: zinc and hydrochloric acid to produce hydrogen gas, hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide to produce oxygen gas. A stopper with a hole is inserted in both the test tubes, and learners fill a small pipette bulb with water. They let the gases from the two test tubes displace the water. The gases are squeezed into a flame to make a "pop," and the gas ratio can be varied to change the magnitude of the "pop." This reaction can be related to the hydrogen/oxygen reaction that powers the space shuttle. For safety reasons, this activity works best as a demonstration for younger audiences.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 6-8 15-mm by 100-mm test tubes
  • 6-8 1-hole rubber stoppers (size 0)
  • One 100-ml plastic beaker
  • One large glass bowl
  • One 600-ml beaker
  • 4-6 small plastic pipette bulbs
  • 6-8 micro pipette tips
  • Two mason jars
  • Two mason jar lids with two test-tube sized holes
  • Two sponges cut to fit bottom of mason jars
  • One fine-mesh strainer
  • Manganese dioxide (MnO2) chunks (keep 20 g on hand)
  • Granular zinc (Zn) (keep 20 g on hand)
  • Two 250-ml squeeze bottles
  • One large plastic bottle with lid (for waste HCl)
  • 200 ml 1.0M HCl (hydrochloric acid) (keep 500 ml on hand) OR — 200 ml of concentrated HCl
  • 200 ml 3% H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) (keep 500 ml on hand) OR — 100 ml of 30% H2O2
  • One bunsen burner with rubber tubing (from general storage)
  • Protective Plexiglas barrier (to place in front of the bunsen burner and over the gas valve )
  • Vertical Plexiglas display stand, 8½ in. wide by 11 in. high
  • Piece of black paper, 8½ in. by 11 in.
  • Handheld spark generator such as a piezo lighter (from general storage )


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation