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A Catalytic Conversion: Westcom showcases her science talents

Twenty-three-year-old Alayna Westcom stood onstage in a white dress with a blue atom emblem, blue shoes, and lab glasses. On a table covered by a white tablecloth, she added hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide to a little soap and then stepped back to watch. "Don't try this at home," she teased as white foam erupted onto the stage. It was a catalytic decomposition reaction that goes by the nickname "elephant's toothpaste." The hydrogen peroxide rapidly decomposes into water and oxygen gas, and when the gas gets trapped in the soap, voilá-bubbles, and a huge shot of foam.

This article first appeared in IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine December 2017.

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