Automotive Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect

This is a laboratory activity in which students will compare the amount of carbon dioxide in four different sources of gas and determine the carbon dioxide contribution from automobiles. They test ambient air, human exhalation, automobile exhaust, and nearly pure carbon dioxide from a vinegar/baking soda mixture.

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Texas State Energy Conservation Office

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Instructions are provided to the educator for collecting exhaust from a vehicle; this will need to be done prior to class and the educator may wish to seek the assistance of another adult for this process.

Educators should describe the pH changes that occur when brothymol blue is combined with CO2 (forms an acid), and when an acidic solution is treated with ammonia. (Ammonia is a base and thus neutralizes the acid.)

Students with a latex allergy should observe this lab, but not directly handle balloons.

Educators might discuss the relative concentrations of CO2 in air (0.04%), human exhalation (5.5%), automobile exhaust (varies), and pure CO2 (100%) and how these concentrations relate to the amount of ammonia drops added.

Educators could use dry ice as an opener for this activity or add it to the list of substances to test.

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