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I See! Vitamin C!

Teacher's Notes

Mary Colvard, Cobleskill-Richmondville High School

Part One  Data Sheet for Part One   Part Two

Type of activity
  • hands-on
  • inquiry lab
  • cooperative learning

Target audience

  • Biology
  • Life Science
  • Students will be able to answer the question, "How does the concentration of vitamin C vary in different foods?"

Background information

This lab can be used as part of a unit dealing with either enzymes or nutrition. It provides an interesting venue for a discussion of the significance of vitamins in enzyme structure and function. With scurvy being the model, the role of vitamins in the human diet can also be dramatized.

Students first learn a simple titration technique and determine the relative vitamin C concentration in different orange juice preparations. They are then asked to design a lab which answers some question they have regarding vitamin C levels in foods. In cooperative groups of two, they design a scientifically controlled experiment to answer the question, conduct the experiment, collect data, and reach a conclusion based on their findings.

Materials needed for the lab are simple and inexpensive. Each group of two students will need:

  • Vitamin C indicator solution, three 50 mL Erlenmeyer flasks or three plastic medicine cups, one 10 mL graduated cylinder, three disposable pipettes, one stirring rod, distilled water, a container or sink in which to dump waste solutions, a container of clean water or a sink in which to rinse materials between trials, cheese cloth, blender (access to one), graph paper, freshly squeezed OJ, canned OJ, bottled OJ, frozen OJ. Depending on student generated lab designs, other materials and equipment will be necessary.

There are two different preparations (starch-iodine or indophenol) that may be used for the vitamin C indicator solution. Neither is more accurate than the other. The starch-iodine mixture is much cheaper. It can be made ahead and stored in a dark, cool place in two liter soda bottles and dispensed in liter containers at the lab stations. Both indicators vary from one preparation to the next, so an accurate measure of vitamin C is not really possible with this protocol. The results allow students to compare only relative amounts present.

Directions for the preparation of vitamin C Indicators

  • Add 2 g of corn starch or potato starch in 200 mL of cold, distilled water. Bring the mixture to a full boil in a glass beaker.
  • To 1 liter of water, add 8 mL of the starch solution and 1 mL of tincture of iodine.
  • Note: The color of the starch indicator should be a royal blue. Just before doing the lab, check the indicator and dilute the concentration so that a workable number of drops of fresh orange juice (5 to 25) turn the indicator colorless.
Tincture of Iodine
  • Add 2 g of Iodine to 45 mL of ethanol and dissolve.
  • Dissolve this mixture in 55 mL of distilled water.
  • Add 2.4 grams of KI (potassium iodide) to this mixture and dissolve.
  • Stock solution : dissolve 100 mg of 2,6 dichloro-indophenol salt in 100 mL of distilled water.
  • Prepare a working solution by diluting the stock solution at a 1:10 ration with distilled water.
  • Note: When testing the juices of citrus fruits for vitamin C content, the blue indophenol may turn pink before turning colorless because of the presence of substances other than vitamin C.
Part One  Data Sheet for Part One   Part Two

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