Exploring the STEM Behind Common Household Items

common household items

When we think of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, we often picture laboratories or advanced technologies like AI-powered robots. In reality, STEM is all around us, intricately woven into the fabric of our daily lives. We regularly interact with a multitude of household items that use these principles. STEM is everywhere, from the chemistry in our cleaning products to the physics governing our kitchen gadgets. Let’s explore the STEM behind some of our most common household items!

The Chemistry of Cleaning Products

Behind the seemingly mundane acts of scrubbing and sanitizing lies a rich chemistry background, driving the effectiveness of our cleaning products. Let’s examine how science plays a role in some of our most common household items – cleaners!

Surfactants and Emulsifiers

All cleaning products are made up of surfactants and emulsifiers. Surfactants allow us to scrub dirt and grime away from surfaces effectively. These chemicals, like alkylbenzene sulfonates and alkylphenol ethoxylates, are formulated to work in conjunction with water to penetrate and disperse contaminants. Emulsifiers, like glycerol esters and sorbitan esters, allow the cleaning solution to pick up insoluble particles, like dirt, without redepositing them onto the surface. This ensures that the surface stays clean!

The Power of pH: Acidic vs. Basic Cleaners

A product’s chemical pH is essential for its cleaning purpose and efficacy. Chemists use pH, a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, to design products to clean specific surfaces and substances. For example, acidic cleaners with pH levels below 7 are adept at breaking down organic matter, like rust or hard water stains. These cleaners often include multipurpose cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and vinegar. Alternatively, with pH levels above 7, essential cleaners fight grease and oil, using emulsifiers to remove them from surfaces. These essential cleaners include dish soap, laundry detergent, and more.

Environmental Impact

As environmental concerns grow, chemists use a mix of chemical and biological principles to develop biodegradable and sustainable cleaning products. These products use the power of renewable sources, like plants, to create effective cleaning solutions that don’t leave harmful residues on the environment. Continual innovations in green chemistry have allowed for cleaner cleaning products!

The Science of Kitchen Gadgets

Our kitchens are filled with gadgets and gizmos that employ the power of technology and physics. All of these common household items we often take for granted, from our stoves to refrigerators, have a STEM background!

The Mechanics of Stove Burners

Gas and eclectic stoves use principles from physics, like combustion and heat transfer, to cook our food. Gas burners use knobs to control the combustion of natural gas or propane. Electric burners generate heat through an intricately designed electrical current flowing through coils or ceramic elements. These currents transfer heat to our pots and pans via conduction, allowing us to cook our food thoroughly.

Refrigeration and Thermodynamics

Refrigerators also employ the laws of thermodynamics to create a safe environment to store food, preserve freshness, and prevent mold and bacteria growth. Refrigerators are designed to keep food at safe temperatures, following the rules of food science. These electric coolers use the compression and expansion of refrigerant gases to facilitate heat exchange, ultimately removing heat from the refrigerator’s interior.

Microwave Magic: Electromagnetic Waves in Action

Microwaves are a marvel of scientific innovation. These small machines use microwaves, a form of electromagnetic radiation, to generate heat through friction. The rotating turntable allows for an even distribution of energy in the food, preventing hot or cold spots.

Engineering Marvels in Everyday Electronics

Electronics offer us convenience, entertainment, and connectivity in our daily lives. Though we often take them for granted, these electronic devices are engineering marvels driven by principles of circuitry, electrical engineering, and science. 

LED Lights and Energy Efficiency

Every time you flip a light switch or turn on a lamp, you interact with STEM. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are one of the most common lightbulbs, offering superior energy efficiency and longevity. These lights use the movement of electrons within semiconductor materials to create light. 

Audio Devices and Circuitry

Audio devices, like earbuds and speakers, use advanced circuitry and acoustical engineering to produce precise, faithful sounds. Engineers create these everyday products to replicate sounds with real-life accuracy, providing us access to music, podcasts, and more.

Understanding Batteries and Chargers

Batteries, chargers, and other power sources are essential to our everyday electronics. These portable power sources enable us to use our products without interruption. Through a precise density of energy and specified electrical circuits, these power sources maximize our electronics, giving them longer lifespans and usability.

In conclusion, STEM is part of all of our common household items. There is chemistry behind our cleaning products, science behind our kitchen gadgets, and engineering behind our everyday electronics. Though we may not recognize it, STEM principles enhance our quality of life in countless ways, offering us greater convenience and connectivity!

A STEM Education for All Students

As we move into the 21st century, STEM subjects are becoming essential for students to learn. Getting familiar with technology and learning to use and create it opens a wide field of jobs. Here at 21stCentEd, we are passionate about helping young people prepare for a bright future in which their STEM skills will help them find jobs that will be relevant in this digital age. Set up a discovery call today and learn more about how we can help your district or school prepare high school students for the future of work.

About 21stCentEd

At 21stCentEd, a strong tomorrow is what we’re all about. We’ve been deeply invested in creating interactive STEM tools for kids for many years.