Sparking Imaginative Learning
01792 348205
Your location: ASHBURN, VA Change
Closest location:
Mad Science of Washington Go
Mad Science of Hampton Roads Go
Your location: ASHBURN, VA  

Can't find your location? Contact the head office for help.
Sign up for our newsletter!
Follow us on:

Example Science Fair Project

Need help guidance or information on entering a project into our Science Fair?
Why not use the below example as a template or some inspiration! 



At a crime scene where £1,000,000 worth of diamonds was stolen, 
note was found written in black ink reading:

“We have your diamonds; do not expect to see them again”

Police have two suspects and have found a black pen on each of them.
As a forensic scientist, you have been given the task of determining
which pen wrote the note and which suspect is responsible for stealing the diamonds!


By using chromatography, we should find a match between one of the
suspect pens and the pen used to write the note.

Investigation Details

In order to work out who is responsible, I will use a method called paper chromatography.
This involves submerging a sample of ink from both the suspect pens and the ink used to
write the note and then observing how the colour separate.
By matching the patterns of how the ink separated.

Experiment Instructions:
Required Items:
Sample of ink used at crime scene
Sample of ink from both suspects
Wooden coffee stirrer/pen/pencil
2 Clips/tape
Paper/Coffee Filter Paper



 1) Cut a piece of filter paper to size 50mm x 100mm
 2) Attach top of filter paper to coffee stirrer with clip
 3) Dab the three samples of ink, equally space out along the bottom
     of the filter paper
 3) Submerge bottom of filter paper in 20ml water in beaker ensuring
     that the dabs of ink do not actually go below the surface of the water
 4) Clip stirrer into place to hold it in beaker




The sample of the ink found at the crime scene rose up the paper and started to show colours.
There were three distinct colours:
Black/Dark Yellow (from base-line up), Red/Pink (From 25mm up) and blue/green (From 47mm up).
The sample of ink from suspect 1 did not separate into multiple colours however did rise
76mm from the base line.
The sample of ink from suspect 2 did separate into three distinct colours and rose:
Black/Dark Yellow (from base-line up), Red/Pink (From 25mm up) and blue/green (From 53mm up).

To further investigate paper chromatography, I experimented with various other solvents (instead
of water)
such as nail-varnish remover and also used other pens to check that different pens showed
different patterns.
For example, black biro in ethanol rose 80mm in a deep purple colour!

See results page for actually visual results.

I repeated this experiment multiple types to ensure that my results were correct. 
I also conducted this experiment using ethanol and compared the patterns under
these conditions; again, there were two inks that followed the same pattern.


From my results I can happily say that suspect 2 is guilty!
My experiment shows just one of many techniques that forensic
scientists use to try and solve mysteries!
The technique called paper chromatography separate’s inks into various
colours at varying heights and produces patterns that can be compared to identify certain dyes.

In the future I would like to find a way of testing more inks at one time such as using a larger
beaker and a large piece of filter paper. I would also like to see the results of the separation
of a much wider range of inks to find out patterns such as finding out that 2 different dyes
are present in two completely different pens.




Check out ourIn-Class Workshops
Mobile version | Privacy policy | Terms and conditions LEGO®, the LEGO® logo, the Minifigure, MINDSTORMS® and LEGOLAND® are trademarks of the LEGO® Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site. Copyright © 2019 Mad Science Group Inc. - All rights reserved
8360 Bougainville Street, Suite 201, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H4P 2G1