How can I extract iron from oatmeal or breakfast cereal?
- Food chemistry/nutrients
- Iron fortified instant oatmeal packet (check the label to ensure iron content)
- Magnet (it’s easiest to see the iron if you can find a magnet that is coated or painted white or another light color)
- Plastic bag or bowl
- Magnet—for this experiment you will want a magnet you can use to stir a liquid (it’s easiest to see the iron if you can find a magnet that is coated or painted white or another light color)
- Plastic bag
- Large glass jar or beaker
- Open the oatmeal packet and empty it into the plastic bag or bowl.
- Stir the oatmeal with the magnet. You should see small amounts of grey or brown metal collect on the outside of the magnet. This is iron! Iron is commonly added as a mineral supplement to breakfast cereals and other foods. Now you can see that the iron that goes into your diet is the same element that you find in objects made of iron metal (just in much smaller quantities and pieces). Recall that iron is attracted to magnets due to the fact that it is a ferromagnetic material (see “Atoms and Molecules”).
- Pour 1 or 2 cups of breakfast cereal into a plastic bag.
- Crush the cereal inside the bag using your hands.
- Pour about 1 liter of water into the jar or beaker, and add the crushed cereal from the bag to the water. The water will help to extract the iron from the crushed cereal. Whereas the iron bits were looser in the dry oatmeal sample, they tend to be stuck within pieces of cereal, which is why you need to mechanically crush the cereal and use the water to help extract it; the magnetic interaction wouldn’t be strong enough to pull the iron out of the cereal on its own. In a chemistry lab, acids would often be used to help extract metals from a sample, but will work fine for our purposes here.
- Use the magnet to stir the crushed cereal for about 15 minutes. When you remove the magnet from the water, you should see iron filings collected on the magnet.
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