Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Demonstration of the Carbonic Acid Exchange Theory: Employing Magnets & Different Colored Paperclips

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Demonstration of the Carbonic Acid Exchange Theory: Employing Magnets & Different Colored Paperclips

Article excerpt

The Carbonic Acid Exchange Theory explains how cations associated with clay particles become available to roots. Demonstrate this process to students by first portraying each clay particle as a circular magnet such as those commonly found on kitchen refrigerators. In addition, illustrate each cation as a different colored paperclip, for instance, [K.sup.+] is red, [Ca.sup.2] is blue, [Mg.sup.2+] is orange, and [Cu.sup.2+] is yellow. Then show that the colored mixture of paperclips/cations are attracted to the magnet/clay particle and discuss that each clay particle can hold only so many cations.

The next step is to describe that carbon dioxide given off by roots as a product of aerobic respiration reacts with water in the soil solution to form carbonic acid that dissociates to a proton and a bicarbonate ion. These protons now in the soil solution may diffuse to clay particles and replace cations. In the demonstration, present a proton as a colored paperclip not already representing a cation such as a pink one, and have many of these pink paperclips take the place of cation paperclips. With a cation paperclip in hand, explain that the liberated cation can diffuse to another magnet/clay particle and potentially replace another cation. However, the cation could also diffuse in the soil solution toward the root and be absorbed at the root hairs to be laterally transported to the xylem. …

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