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Obtain three sizes of styrofoam balls, twelve of each size. Each of the smallest balls represents a hydrogen atom. Each of the middle-sized balls represents a carbon atom, and each large ball represents an oxygen atom.

You can make various molecular models using these representations of atoms.

a. Water Molecule.

To make a water molecule, cut 2-inch lengths of heavy wire, and insert them into the centers of two small balls. Attach them to one of the largest balls.

A single molecule of water is made from two atoms of hydrogen (the smallest atom) and one of oxygen (the largest of the three atoms). Scientists describe this atom as H2O.

What are the properties of a drop of water made up of billions of these molecules?

b. Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule.

Hydrogen peroxide is a liquid used as a bleaching agent and disinfectant. A model of a hydrogen peroxide molecule can be made by fastening two small balls with two large ones.

Scientists describe this molecule as H2O2 because it is made up of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms.

Compare the properties of this substance with those of water, carbon dioxide, ethyl alcohol, and simple sugar.

c. Carbon Dioxide Molecule.

Carbon dioxide is a heavy, colorless gas used in soft drinks. You can make a model of this molecule by attaching one middle-sized ball to two large ones.

Scientists describe this molecule as CO2. It is made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms.

d. Ethyl Alcohol Molecule.

Ethyl alcohol is a liquid found in some medicines, wines, and other liquors. Ethyl alcohol is a more complicated molecule than a water, hydrogen peroxide, or carbon dioxide molecule.

e. Simple Sugar Molecule.

Sugar is something familiar to you. Its molecular structure can take several forms. Dextrose (C6H12O6) is one form you can make.

Not only are there many possible substances that can be made using just these three kinds of atoms, but the number of possible combinations when other atoms are also used is beyond counting.

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