This lab activity helps students explore how nature creates calcium carbonate, a compound needed to manufacture cement, at ambient temperatures and using abundant, readily available raw materials. Available in both English and Spanish.

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In this science lesson plan for high school students, students learn that the prevailing manufacturing model on planet Earth—practiced by millions of other species—is one in which raw materials for manufacturing are actually acquired benignly from the environment. By emulating a physiological process used by corals to create calcium carbonate out of seawater and carbon dioxide, young people experience first-hand a cutting-edge biomimetic technology with the promise of transforming conventional concrete manufacturing into a more sustainable industry.

The lesson plan addresses key chemistry education standards and is available for upper elementary grades through high school.

*Lab update October 2018: The NaOH used in this lab must be pure and in a clear and liquid form. Drain-O/Liquid Plumr used to be formulated this way, but now crystals are more common. Do not use the crystal form. It will cloud up the solution so you can’t see the precipitate form and clog the filter. If you can’t find liquid NaOH locally, you can order it in pure form from a chemistry supply store.

Lab procedure video

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