Contact Information

  • Jennifer A. Tripp
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • San Francisco State University

What am I Breathing? Preparation and Properties of O2 and CO 2

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Breathing is fundamental to life, and this experiment provides students with the opportunity to study the properties of gases found in air. Students prepare plastic bags filled with room air, exhaled air, and pure oxygen and carbon dioxide that they synthesize through simple chemical reactions. They then use chemical indicator tests to determine if the gases form acidic solutions upon reaction with water, and measure the effect of each gas sample on a burning match. Accompanying questions invite the students to relate their experimental observations with issues such as air pollution, ocean acidification, and physiological buffer systems.

This laboratory exercise is included in the laboratory manual to accompany Chemistry in Context, a college textbook of the American Chemical Society for liberal arts students. Chemistry in Context presents chemical ideas in the context of environmental and societal challenges, allowing students to explore the chemistry behind issues such as air quality, energy, clean water, and food security. Accompanying laboratory experiments provide hands-on practice with basic laboratory techniques and reinforce the principles of green chemistry that are explained in the text. Instructor notes are available for each experiment.

Summary prepared March 2012 by Jennifer A. Tripp at San Francisco State University.


Tripp, J. What am I Breathing? Preparation and Properties of O2 and CO 2, Experiment #1 Chemistry in Context Laboratory Manual seventh edition;, Print Eds.; McGraw-Hill, 2012:

Category Descriptors

Chemistry Concepts
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Solutions/Solvents
  • Water - Water Chemistry
Laboratory Techniques
  • pH
Green Chemistry Principles
  • Prevent Waste
Chemistry Subdiscipline
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary
Target Audience
  • Colleges/Universities
  • Secondary Schools
  • Books