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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Ultimate Chemistry Kit That Still Uses Real Chemicals

Thames and Kosmos produces several science kits, including multiple chemistry sets. The Chem C3000 is their ultimate chemistry kit. Chemistry education and labs have moved toward computer simulations and 'safe' chemicals, so it's actually quite hard to find a kit that offers the types of hands-on experimentation that set the standard for chemistry labs in the past. The Chem 3000 is one of the few chemistry kits on the market today that contains chemicals and equipment necessary to perform over 350 high school / advanced chemistry experiments. This is the most popular chemistry kit for home school chemistry and self-teaching.

Description

This is the ultimate chemistry kit! Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000 kit contains everything in their Chem C1000 and Chem C2000 kits, plus more chemicals and equipment. You'll be able to perform over 350 chemistry experiments.

The kit comes in a box containing two styrofoam packing trays. The company reserves the right to make technical changes in the kit, so there isn't much point in listing the exact contents of the box I received, but I will say it included a 192-page paperback color lab manual, safety glasses, stickers for labeling chemicals, test tubes, a test tuber holder and test tube brush, a funnel, graduated beakers, pipettes, stoppers, an alcohol burner, a tripod stand, electrodes, brown bottles for storing light-sensitive chemicals, rubber hoses, glass tubing, filter paper, an evaporating dish, an Erlenmeyer flask, a plastic syringe, litmus powder, an assortment of other lab necessities, and numerous containers of chemicals. As you might expect, there's nothing particularly dangerous with respect to waste disposal (e.g., no mercury, carbon tetrachloride, etc.), but it's a serious set, intended for hands-on, old school chemistry experimentation.

The experiments introduce the investigator to proper use of chemistry lab equipment and cover general chemistry and introductory organic essentials.

Age Recommendation: 12+
This is a set for middle and high school students and adults. It is not an appropriate chemistry kit for young children. However, you don't need to have any prior knowledge of chemistry to use the set.

The instruction book is designed like a lab text. Each chapter features an introduction, a clear list of objectives, explanation of the concepts, step-by-step instructions, practice questions to make sure you understand what is going on, and a self-test.

It is not complicated -- you just need a grasp of basic algebra and the ability to follow directions to master the material. The pictures in the book are glorious and the text is easy to read. It's fun and down-to-earth, not boring pages of calculations and graphs. The point is to show you how fun chemistry is!

Pros and Cons of the Chem C3000 Kit

Personally, I think the 'pros' of this kit greatly outweigh the 'cons', but you should know what you're getting into before deciding if this is the right chemistry kit for you. The biggest issue aside from cost probably is that this is a serious kit. There are risks if you misuse the chemicals, there is a flame, and there is basic math in the calculations. If you're looking for an introduction to chemistry for very young investigators, it would be better to opt for an age-appropriate set.

Pros
  • Suitable for the lab component of home school high school chemistry.
  • Lots of chemicals; lots of experiments. You won't run through this set in an hour or a weekend.
  • Instruction manual is exceptional, with color pictures, clear instructions, and informative explanations of the chemistry.
  • Includes lab and safety equipment, not just chemicals, so you can continue experimentation and labwork beyond the instructions. You can order additional chemicals either from Thames & Kosmos or pick them up on your own.
Cons
  • Expensive! You get a lot in this kit, but it's typically around $200. If that is out of your budget range, you might consider one of the smaller Thames & Kosmos kits. The quality is the same, except the kits are cheaper and cover fewer experiments. Or, if you are on a tight budget, why not put together your own kit from household chemicals?
  • Additional materials required. To complete every experiment, you'll need to pick up a 9-volt battery and a few additional chemicals that are not included in the kit, primarily because they are either flammable or else have a short shelf life. Fortunately, these chemicals are not hard to find online. Specifically, the additional chemicals needed that the company couldn't legally ship in the kit are:
    • 1% silver nitrate solution [find online]
    • ~4% sodium hydroxide solution [find online]
    • ~7% hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid) [find online]
    • 3% hydrogen peroxide (usually drug store strength) [find online]
    • ~3% ammonia (diluted household ammonia) [find online]
    The additional chemicals/materials you'll need are:
    • white vinegar
    • denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
    • distilled water
    • baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
    • citric acid [find online]
    • ammonium carbonate [find online]
    • aluminum foil
    • cotton
    • iron nail
    • 9-volt battery
  • You may experience breakage in shipping. Most people order this kit online. It comes well-packaged and mine didn't break, despite FedEx throwing it at my front door, but other people have reported getting some broken glassware. The chemicals come in plastic containers, so they are secure, but there test tubes and glass bottles, so breakage is possible. My advice is to order via a vendor that will replace any damaged components.

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