CENTC uses catalysis to make chemical reactions go faster. This helps to use less energy and make less waste when making stuff like fuel for cars, plastic bottles and toys, and medicine.

You can use a catalyst at home and see for yourself the power of catalysis in speeding up a chemical reaction.

Elephant Toothpaste

A fun demonstration of catalysis that you can do at home is called Elephant Toothpaste. This activity uses readily available and safe materials to show the amazing impact of catalysis on the rate of a chemical reaction.

Over time hydrogen peroxide will break down very slowly to form water and oxygen gas. The addition of a catalyst speeds up the rate of this reaction millions of time faster to generate massive quantities of bubbles.

What's Happening?

The yeast contains a catalyst that speeds up the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide causing the rapid formation of water and oxygen gas. Tiny bubbles of the gas are trapped in the detergent and the speed of the reaction causes the resulting foam to squirt from the bottle such that it resembles toothpaste being squeezed from a tube. The chemical reaction generates heat, so the bottle and the foam will feel very warm.


  • 16 oz. empty plastic soda bottle
  • ½ cup hydrogen peroxide (3% is available in the drugstore, for a more vigorous reaction 6% hydrogen peroxide can be obtained from a beauty supply store)
  • Squirt of Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 2-3 drops food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon baking yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons very warm water
  • Funnel
  • Pan with ~2-inch sides

Paws on Science


  1. Stand bottle upright in center of pan and place funnel in opening
  2. Add food coloring to hydrogen peroxide and pour colored peroxide through the funnel into the bottle
  3. Add the Dawn dishwashing detergent to the peroxide in the bottle
  4. Quickly pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and remove the funnel
  5. Observe
  6. Touch the bottle to sense any changes that take place