Science Rendezvous - Think like an inorganic chemist

Faculty of Science

jaime ritch at science rendezvous

Dr. Jamie Ritch is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry. He began volunteering with Science Rendezvous in 2012.

When he first started volunteering with Science Rendezvous, his big contribution was a chemistry magic show, developed and performed with Dr. Jamie Galka. They performed this popular event for several years before passing the (magic) wand to a team of student volunteers.

He is a firm believer that raising scientific literacy – and awareness of Canadian scientific research – for future generations will underline the importance of scientific endeavours to all Canadians, while at the same time demonstrating how fun science is to explore.

His approach to scientific discovery is largely curiosity-driven. He investigates chemical problems to discover new knowledge that might have a future application, but "that would be a happy coincidence rather than the primary goal," he explains.

Vaporization of liquid nitrogen

In this demo, Dr. Jamie Ritch and Dr. Jamie Galka pour liquid nitrogen into a container with hot water in it to illustrate phase changes in matter.

How does this work?

Liquid nitrogen is very cold, close to -200 °C. The hot water vapourizes the nitrogen immediately to the gas phase, though it is still very cold. Cold enough, in fact, to condense water vapour from the surrounding air into small liquid water droplets. This collection of droplets is visible as the cloud that forms, much like clouds in the sky are collections of liquid droplets and other small particles.

Combustion of hydrogen gas

In this demo, Dr. Jamie Ritch and Dr. Jamie Galka, fill a balloon with hydrogen gas and ignite it with a flame. Hydrogen gas and oxygen gas chemically combine to form water and heat.

How does this work?

If you mix these two gases together under normal conditions, nothing will happen because a large amount of “activation” energy is needed to start the reaction. When you provide energy, such as the burning candle used in this video, the flame meets the gas and a small explosion occurs as the hydrogen molecules combines with surrounding oxygen molecules.

Did you know?

Many important scientific discoveries were discovered purely by accident (such as Teflon and Penicillin), or take a long time to find practical applications (such as Einstein’s discovery of the photoelectric effect in 1905, which led to the development of sensitive light detectors called photomultiplier tubes decades later).

Contributed by: Dr. Jamie Ritch, Department of Chemistry