Alchemy preceded modern chemistry. It began in Egypt, Persia, and
Mesopotamia. There are records of alchemists in Alexandria around 300 BC. From
there it spread to India, China and to Europe. Alchemists made many important
discoveries and developed equipment and procedures that we still use today. They
contributed to metallurgy, dyeing, glass making, and medicine. Their work
advanced our knowledge of the physical world.
In the Middle Ages, court alchemists worked to transmute base metals into gold to
provide wealth for their sponsors. They often conducted their experiments in secret
and kept their records using symbols to represent chemical ingredients. As a result
of this, alchemy is often thought of as mysticism, magic, or fraud.
Bunsen burner ring stand salt and vinegar (for
Tongs penny cleaning)
evaporating drain cleaner [lye-NaOH or KOH] Hot plate
dish or beaker hot dipped galvanized nails [zinc]
Before igniting the Bunsen burner, tie back long hair and secure loose clothing.
Do not ingest any chemicals.
1. Copy materials and safety information.
2. Do the hypothesis section
3. Copy the procedures
Write a hypothesis stating whether you believe base metals can be transmuted into
Perform each of the following activities and carefully observe what happens. After each
Procedure Part, complete your data table according to the instructions in Observations
1. Turn the Hot plate on to 250oC.
2. Place 20mL of the drain cleaner in a beaker.
3. Add several hot dipped galvanized nails.
4. Using tongs, add one clean penny. [Pennies can be cleaned using salt & vinegar]
5. Place the beaker on top of the Hot plate.
6. Heat gently until the liquid is almost boiling. Maintain this temperature for several
minutes. Do not boil unless this is being conducted under a fume hood.
7. Using tongs, remove the penny and rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of the
8. Examine the penny and record your observations.
1. Hold a silver penny from Part I by the edges with tongs. Place it just above the flame
of a Bunsen burner. Remove it from the heat immediately when it changes color.
2. Allow the coin to cool and record your observations.
OBSERVATIONS & CONCLUSIONS
Answer these under the procedure section in your lab write up
Construct a data table with the following column headings. Allow 2-3 lines for each
Part Color Other Observations
1. A penny is an alloy. Describe an alloy.
2. Which of the following is true?
a. A base metal was transmuted to gold.
b. Gold cannot be produced by this method
1. This was an actual procedure that was done by early chemists for their wealthy
sponsors. Explain how their sponsors would have reacted to the results of this
2. Defend your answer to number 2 in your conclusion.
3. Was your hypothesis correct? Explain.
1. Wash and place all glassware upside down on counters.
2. Dispose of chemicals as instructed by your teacher.