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Paleontological Research Institution


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Types

  • Experiments
  • Worksheets

Regional Focus




Infrared Detection of Carbon Dioxide

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  • In this experiment, students will build a testing chamber and perform an experiment to measure the amount of infrared energy that carbon dioxide absorbs. 
  • Students will record and graph their data and discuss the relationship between what their data shows and what is happening to our planet.
Teaching Tips


  • The concepts presented in the experiment are challenging, but the resource provides clear and detailed explanations.
  • The lesson plan provides a helpful photograph of the apparatus that students will build for the experiment.
  • The experiment can be run as a "dry lab" by using the sample information provided.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The links on page 6 of the PDF do not work, but the URLs can be typed manually.
  • For the experiment, you will need an IR thermometer (forehead/ear thermometer), a mug warmer or hot plate, a carbon dioxide meter, a paper or plastic bottle/container, a small dish or cup, sodium bicarbonate tablets (e.g. Alka-Seltzer), and a clock or timer.


  • Chemistry, biology, and physics classes can utilize this experiment for lessons about waves, energy, the electromagnetic spectrum, ocean acidification, the greenhouse effect, and global warming.
  • This experiment could also be used to connect topics such as carbon sequestration and the importance of natural carbon sinks.
  • Other resources on this topic include this video on infrared radiation absorption, this lesson on the chemistry of the greenhouse effect, and this interactive media resource about heating up the atmosphere.
Scientist Notes
This resources requires the use of an infrared thermometer, a carbon dioxide detector, and a mug warmer or other source of heat. Students are tasked with setting up an experiment in which carbon dioxide is produced using an antacid tablet, and careful observations of temperature and carbon dioxide are made that demonstrate the greenhouse effect. If all the equipment are available, then this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4 Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.
    • PS3: Energy
      • HS-PS3-1 Create a computational model to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known.
    • PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
      • HS-PS4-4 Evaluate the validity and reliability of claims in published materials of the effects that different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation have when absorbed by matter.
      • HS-PS4-5 Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.
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