Bradley Chemistry Professor Demonstrates the Power of Social Distancing

April 1, 2020

Dean Campbell, a chemistry professor at Bradley University, Tom Kuntzleman, a chemistry professor at Spring Arbor University, and a few Bradley chemistry majors came up with a way to demonstrate how social distancing can flatten the curve of the coronavirus. By tweaking two classic chemistry experiments, providing effective comparisons, and filming the results, people everywhere can feel encouraged that their efforts to stay home are making a difference, while also learning some chemistry basics.

In the first experiment, they compare hydrogen peroxide concentrations to human population concentrations. They then compare the amount of oxygen gas foam formed to cases of coronavirus. Lastly, the capacity of the reaction containers is compared to the capacity of the healthcare system to care for people who are ill. View the first experiment here.

Similarly, a second experiment uses Diet Coke and Mentos. Mentos represent social gatherings, the foam represents cases of illness, and the geyser guide represents the healthcare system capacity. View the second experiment here.

Campbell's collaborative article explains, "These demonstrations convey the basic idea that the rate of many processes – chemical or otherwise – can be altered by changing various conditions. In terms of collision theory, increasing the number of collisions between reactant molecules increases the rate of chemical reactions. By analogy to the spread of a viral infection, increasing human-to-human interaction increases the rate at which a disease spreads."

When asked how this article came to life, Campbell shared, "The whole thing happened very fast, maybe ten days from idea to publication. I hope it gets people thinking." He also thanked his family for "putting up with his experiments in the kitchen."

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.