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Physical Change

Source Institutions

    The Exploratorium

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Physical Change

In this activity, learners use heat to separate zinc and copper in a penny. This experiment demonstrates physical properties and how physical change (phase change) can be used to separate matter.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Lots of pennies, 1983 or newer
  • Ceramic bowl or crucible
  • Eye protection
  • Metal tongs
  • Heat source (propane torch or Bunsen burner)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids
      • Changes of Phase
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • 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,


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