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Red Cabbage PH Detector - Science Experiment

Some substances are classified as either an acid or a base. Think of acids and bases as opposites—acids have a low pH and bases have a high pH. For reference, water (a neutral) has a pH of 7 on a scale of 0–14. Scientists can tell if a substance is an acid or a base by means of an indicator. An indicator is typically a chemical that changes color if it comes in contact with an acid or a base.

As you can see, the purple cabbage juice turns red when it mixes with something acidic and turns green when it mixes with something basic. Red cabbage juice is considered to be an indicator because it shows us something about the chemical composition of other substances.

What is it about cabbage that causes this to happen? Red cabbage contains a water-soluble pigment called anthocyanin that changes color when it is mixed with an acid or a base. The pigment turns red in acidic environments with a pH less than 7 and the pigment turns bluish-green in alkaline (basic) environments with a pH greater than 7.

Red cabbage is just one of many indicators that are available to scientists. Some indicators start out colorless and turn blue or pink, for example, when they mix with a base. If there is no color change at all, the substance that you are testing is probably neutral, just like water.


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