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Open access labs


One of our goals as a Department is to make science, in particular chemistry, available to students who are interested in pursing a career in STEM. 

Considering the uncertainty surrounding access to laboratories during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Chemistry is releasing experiments that students can carry out at home. These experiments are designed to make use of common kitchen equipment to safely recreate a version of the experiments that students would have experienced had they been able to attend our Open Access labs. For each experiment we have given a list of materials and equipment; however if these are not something you can access, we strongly encourage you to use any materials you have available that you think would work! We would love to know what materials you end up using and how you think they affected the experiment!

Two experiments have been designed by Dr Filip Sebest in collaboration with Dr Helen Coulshed and Dr Grace Walden. These are “separation of caffeine from coffee” and “TLC analysis of food colourings.”

These experiments let students explore the principles of separation science.

Caffeine separation from coffee

During this experiment you will separate caffeine from coffee. You will practice key techniques such as gravity filtration, liquid-liquid extraction, how to make saturated solutions, the importance of solvent evaporation and crystallisation.

Click here to download the protocol

Watch an instructional video here

Click here to download the worksheet

Once you have finished the worksheet, check the answer sheet here.


TLC analysis of food colourings

During this experiment you will analyse several readily available food dyes to identify their components. You will practice key techniques such as thin layer chromatography (TLC), the importance of solvent systems and identifying components of a mixture.

Click here to download the protocol

Watch an instructional video here

Click here to download the worksheet

Once you have finished the worksheet, check the answer sheet here.


We are also asking everyone that uses our resources to complete our questionnaire so that we can continue to improve. Thank you for your time!


Open access labs contact

Dr James Harvey


Previous events:

April 2018 - Coin Street Neighbourhood Play Scheme

We were delighted to welcome over 30 primary school children from the Coin Street Neighbourhood Play Scheme into our undergraduate teaching labs during the Easter holidays. We were looking at the chemistry of water and changing states of matter.

Students worked in pairs to add salt to ice and measure the temperature decrease as it melted, as well as stirring liquid sodium thiosulfate and measuring the temperature increase as it formed a solid. After this, students added a few chunks of solid carbon dioxide and watched as it sublimed from a solid to a liquid, creating glove balloons. The students also compared whether a room temperature banana or a liquid nitrogen-dipped banana was the most effective hammer, and had a race to see who could hammer the most pins down in 30 seconds.

I would like to come back because the experiments were so cool!

I enjoyed it very much and I learnt so much. Please can I come back again?!



April 2018 - Tolworth Girls' School

On 26 April, years 12 and 13 students from Tolworth Girls’ visited the Department of Chemistry to experience working in a university laboratory.

The main aim of the day was to produce a pure sample of aspirin. Students were given a lab script which contained all the necessary instructions and followed them independently.

Students had the opportunity to see a fully working and world renowned chemistry laboratory and to use equipment that they normally don’t have access to. They could see how and why the different analytical methods were used, such as thin layer chromatography, Infrared Spectroscopy and Proton NMR, that are normally only covered in their text books.

Although it was a long day — in total we spent about five hours in the lab— the time flew by. This was a very inspiring visit that was both fun and informative, and one that should help us with our revision for pending exams. Everyone enjoyed the day. Thank you King’s!

Charlotte, Year 13


October 2017 - Southborough High School for Boys

Students took part in a workshop to make aspirin. Four procedures lasting 40 minutes each were carried out using ingredients such as ethanol, HCL and sulphuric acid. Students also had a chance to watch how NMR works.

I will never forget that day when I was given a chance to make aspirin, one of the most studied drugs in the world, which is used to treat headaches and inflammation. Making aspirin at King's College London, one of the best universities in the UK, added to my ambitions to study at university and the lab environment was excellent as it prepared me for university. I never thought that the whole process of making aspirin would have been so simple. This was one of the best experiences I have had.


The most enjoyable part of the day was meeting the current chemistry students studying at King's College London, as they passed on their knowledge and experience, whilst also providing me with key tips on how to do well in my exams. The experience made me reaffirm my choice to want to study at King's College London.






Find out more about the Department of Chemistry, King's College London.



Find out about upcoming events in the Department of Chemistry.



Find out about undergraduate courses in the Department of Chemistry.