Alchemy - Turning Copper to Silver, then Gold

Alchemy was a mixture of science, medicine, and religion. Many of the processes and substances that we know today were discovered by alchemists. They discovered alcohol, hydrogen, phosphorus and gun powder, as well as the processes of distillation, evaporation and filtration. However, one of the main goals of alchemy was to change a lesser metal such as copper into gold. Producing gold was thought by alchemists to be a major step toward everlasting life.

In this lab, students used the Law of Conservation of Mass to test whether or not a copper penny can be turned into gold. The process was to heat up NaOH, add zinc powder, then add the penny. This will turn the penny a silver color, then as you hold it in a flame it will turn to gold.

David Brannan