If you're looking for a science fair project, consider a project exploring air pollution. The amount of particulate matter (pollution) in air can be easily determined using homemade pollution detectors. Leave these detectors outside for a period of time, then return and count the particles. A myriad of experiments that are relevant to today's industrial world can be designed around this basic concept.
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Create an Air Pollution Detector
If you have access to a microscope, place a thin layer of petroleum jelly on a slide. If you don't have access to a microscope, wrap a small block of wood in tin foil or filter paper and coat it in petroleum jelly. Punch some holes in a shoebox (or something similar) and place the slide or block inside for protection. Leave the detector outside and check it after about two days. You can leave it outside longer if you don't see results. Read your detector by placing the slides under a microscope and counting the number of different sized spots in a certain area. If you are using a block of wood, try and find a magnifying glass to help count.
Compare Pollution From Burning Different Materials
Select four to six materials that people commonly burn. Some examples might be firewood, lawn clippings, artificial logs and charcoal. Burn each of the materials a few feet from one of your pollution detectors for the same amount of time and under similar conditions. Rank the materials according to how much particulate matter they give off. Draw conclusions.
Locate Sources of Pollution for Different Areas
Come up with some locations that you think might have more or less air pollution than others. Some examples might be near busy roads, in a park or near a factory. Leave pollution detectors in these places for one or two days. Return and measure your findings. Compare your data to what you know about each detector's surroundings to try to determine what factors contribute to air pollution in your area.
Compare Pollution to the Weather
In many urban areas air pollution problems vary with the seasons. Try to figure out how weather affects air pollution by placing pollution detectors in the same place every day. Find a newspaper or website that lists daily information such as temperature, barometric pressure and wind speed. Some newspapers also list the air quality, which could be used to verify the readings from your detectors. Record the measurements from your detectors along with each day's weather information. Compare the two and use graphs to explore any trends that you discover.
Compare Efficiency of Different Furnace Filters
In this project you will compare the weights of different air furnace filters before and after they are used to determine which filter works best. Buy a number of different air filters and record their weights. Use each filter for two to five days with the same amount of air flow. Record the weight and note how much it is different from the initial weight. Compare filters and draw conclusions.
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