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Paul Grobstein's picture

Bio 103, Lab 5, Ongoing change at larger scales: chemical reactions and "ferments"/enzymes

Not only is everything in motion but the "natural" tendency of everything , as we'll talk more about in class, is to fall apart, become more disordered. That tendency is apparent in diffusion (as we saw in the last lab), in the self-ionization of water (animation) and in chemical reactions. In this lab we will begin looking at how life processes can make use of the natural tendency to fall apart to create order. A key part of this story is that things fall apart at different rates and that "enzymes" influence that rate. We will explore the capability of enzymes to control chemical reaction rate and try and deduce characteristics of enzymes from our observations. (Instructors: see lab setup instructions).
 
We will begin with some basic observations implying the existence of enzymes and then explore a particular chemical reaction, the "falling apart" of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas, as it is affected by the enzyme hydrogen peroxidase:
2H2O2 ---> 2H2O + 02
Your report should include a description of your observations relevant to identifying important characteristics of enzymes and some hypotheses about what produces those characteristics.  Are "ferments"/enzymes "alive"?

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