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Author Topic: Electrolysis
Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 14:55      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A long time ago I was joking around with my kids and told them that I could "make water". Of course I planned on doing this by making hydrogen-oxide - hopefully out of sight from my wife who would have issues with intentionally causing explosions - no matter how small.

Well last night I finally got around to setting this up and found a couple of pieces of lightweight steel (22ga or so) that I could pound flat and wire up so that I could do electrolysis to generate H2 and O2. My 2 plates are abount 4x6 inches in size and are seperated by a piece of wire insulation giving me a gap of about 1/4". Wired this up to a battery charge and put it into a bucket of water and lots of bubbles ensued.

Now when I did this many years ago I used a model train transformer and some stainless steel forks (shhhhh - don't tell my mom!) and it worked ok, but I never got large quanities. This generates a fair amount of gas in a relatively short time, BUT I ended up with lots of green goop floating on the surface of the water and inside my capture container.

So - do any of you have any idea what that green goop is and what I can do to prevent it? The steel I had is probably galvanized which I suspect might be oxidizing and giving me the green stuff. If so, what would it be and is it something I should worry about toxicity wise?

Posts: 419 | From: Minneapolis, MN | Registered: Mar 2000  |  IP: Logged
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 15:34      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, you've definitely got some sort of side reaction going on. Whether it's reducing or oxidizing I can't tell. It could be coming from your electrodes or it could also be ions in the water (you're using tap water, right? lots of metal in tap water). But I'm not an inorganic chemist and I have no idea exactly what it is or how to get rid of it. Copper oxidizes into green stuff. I discovered today that cobalt hexamine will also turn a lovely shade of turquoise if left alone long enough, but I'm pretty sure you don't have Co-hex in your tap water (or, at least, I hope you don't!).

The best bet for disposal is scoop it out (wear gloves), seal it up in a container, and take it to your nearest household hazmat site. It's probably not that dangerous, but you can never tell with metals.

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Posts: 7670 | From: the lab | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged
littlefish
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 16:12      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Er, dunno.

You shouldn't ever get 'goop' from a simple electrolysis reaction. More details are needed for a proper analysis. How long have you left the water? Is it algae?

If you can see bubbles forming at the elctrodes, it should all be fine. If you can't see gas production, add salt. This will hasten the reaction.

Galvanised metal definitely should not produce a goop. It also shouldn't be too toxic (don't drink it).

Finally, as for explosions, burning hydrogen (or pretty much any other fuel) will produce water- it doesn't have to explode! Use a fine aperture to prevent flashback.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 16:31      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
<total-ignorance-of-chemistry>
Were you using copper wires?
</total-ignorance-of-chemistry>

quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Finally, as for explosions, burning hydrogen (or pretty much any other fuel) will produce water- it doesn't have to explode! Use a fine aperture to prevent flashback.

Where's the fun in that?

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Serenak

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 16:42      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm no chemist or biologist but I do know electrolysis should not produce green gloop! (H2O + energy = 2*H2 + O2)

My limited knowledge and experience suggests that you *might* be zapping simple plankton/algae in the water and their remains are the "gloop". If that comes from your local tap water I'd get it checked out for contaminants...

So long since I studied basic Chem can't think what else might produce "gloop"

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"So if you want my address - it's No. 1 at the end of the bar, where I sit with the broken angels, clutching at straws and nursing my scars..."

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ewomack
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 16:57      Profile for ewomack   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Whooo... this is nasty stuff. A science teacher from my high school combined the same elements that you're combining, and caused a huge explosion. He was deaf for three days and had some big owies. When he recovered and returned he was suddenly teaching math. From what I hear they never let him near a laboratory again.

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drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 17:23      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My grade 10 science teacher made water by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a bottle, and then igniting it. Made a REALLY loud boom and sprayed water everywhere. It was fun as hell to watch.
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garlicguy

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 18:18      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by drunkennewfiemidget:
My grade 10 science teacher made water by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a bottle, and then igniting it. Made a REALLY loud boom and sprayed water everywhere. It was fun as hell to watch.

Gulliver got arrested for making water publicly and his method seemed nowhere near as extravagant! [Eek!]

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Moe Monkey
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 19:42      Profile for Moe Monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
If you can see bubbles forming at the elctrodes, it should all be fine. If you can't see gas production, add salt. This will hasten the reaction.

Adding salt (sodium chloride) will probably result in chlorine gas being produced at the positive electrode instead of oxygen. If you're into explosions, hydrogen and chlorine combine quite nicely, but both chlorine and the resulting hydrogen chloride are really nasty, I personally wouldn't go there.

If you hook up a couple of pencil leads to a 9V battery and stick them in the salt solution, enough chlorine will adsorb to the graphite that you can catch a whiff (smells like a swimming pool) off the end of the pencil without any ill effects.

Moe

Posts: 145 | From: The couch in the living room | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Moe Monkey
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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 19:50      Profile for Moe Monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by drunkennewfiemidget:
My grade 10 science teacher made water by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a bottle, and then igniting it. Made a REALLY loud boom and sprayed water everywhere. It was fun as hell to watch.

Your teacher was engaging in a little showmanship -- under those conditions you wouldn't have any liquid water formed from the reaction. Even if you did condense the water that would have formed (assuming a 2-L bottle with the right H2:O2 ratio), you would only get about a millilitre of water. He probably collected the gases by displacing water from the bottle, but left a little water in the bottle for effect.

Moe
/been there, done that

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Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 01, 2005 20:05      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well thanks for the hints.

I was using copper wires to hook up the plates to the battery charger, but only about 1/2" was bare in the water and it was not corroded. However, it might have been enough to give some color to the water.

It's not alge - it was a fresh bucket full of water straight from the tap. The "tap" in my house is well water that has been recently tested and came out with a clean bill of health. The water DOES have a fair amount of sodium (water softner) and some iron and some hydrogen sulfide - produced from a harmless iron-eating bacteria. (well harmless if you don't mind the smell of rotten eggs in your shower.) We keep the bacteria under control by periodically shocking the well with chlorine so the amount of hydrogen sulfide isn't too great.

The goop is really just a colored foam. Kind of the color of oxidized copper, but darker - almost looks like black flakes mixed in. After letting it sit for a while the foam breaks down and it's just green and black in the water with a little bit of scum/film on the surface.

There are plenty of bubbles. I was able to fill a 1/2 pint plastic bottle in 5 minutes or so.

If it's toxic - well I guess I'll die. [Smile] But I doubt it. Any time you get copper and galvanized pipes together you get a galvonic reaction at the intersection and some similar corrosion. I have never heard of a plumber warning that this is toxic - just that the pipes will eventually corrode and break and that is a "bad thing" with your water supply lines.

Now the one plate, the anode, was definetly affected. Lots of small pits and rust spots on the surface closest to the cathode. This tells me that the process was causing the zinc of the galvanization to go into the solution. What else might have been there I can't tell.

Of course the whole purpose of this was to have an explosion (a small explosion). Nothing like a little excitement to keep the kids interested in science.

The thing is - this worked SO much better than my old experience using a much smaller power supply. Now I am tempted to put the bucket outside, cover it with a garbage bag, and see if the bag will become boyant in a couple of hours. Of course - all must be kept sufficiently away from humans, animals, and structures - but it could prove "interesting". [evil]

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Rednivek

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Icon 1 posted February 02, 2005 05:38      Profile for Rednivek     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh, the humanity!

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Rednivek - Detroit, Michigan, USA

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csm

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Icon 1 posted February 02, 2005 15:39      Profile for csm   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm wondering if you've got a high concentration of copper in your water/pipes that is leeching out when you perform your experiment. You might want to have your water tested, perhaps?

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Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 02, 2005 19:11      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
hmmm - I hadn't thought about there being a lot of copper in the water itself. There shouldn't be as our water isn't that acidic. and it's only about 10-15 feet of pipe between the plastic pipe from the pump and the faucet I used.

I need to get a better grade of lab testing done here soon so that I know exactly how much iron and hardness I have. When I do that I'll have then check the copper level too. The water softner isn't keeping up and I would like to put an iron filter in that should also hopefully deal with the hydrogen sulfide. I don't trust the quicky tests that all the salesmen do to convince me that I *must* have their particular softner or iron filter. Of course a real lab test will end up being $100-$150 by the time I'm done testing for everything I care about.

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Tut-an-Geek

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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 03:48      Profile for Tut-an-Geek   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
FYI, not that it should make much of a difference, but you're probably adding Potassium Chloride, and not Sodium Chloride (KCl has less flavor and is therefore used more commonly, IIRC)
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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 04:05      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Tut-an-Geek:
FYI, not that it should make much of a difference, but you're probably adding Potassium Chloride, and not Sodium Chloride (KCl has less flavor and is therefore used more commonly, IIRC)

Dunno about 'merika, but over here KCl is usually only used as a salt substitute for people on low-sodium diets (eg, for heart problems), normal salt is NaCl.

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 07:04      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
KCl is available - both as a salt substitute for food and for regenerating the water softner. BUT NaCl is much much cheaper and much more available. There will be 6 or 8 different brands/types of NaCl salt packaged for water softners and only 1 of KCl in most home centers.
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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 08:01      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
DOCO_______Please do not try to light more than a small sandwitch baggie of gas, the plant I retired from has a couple of Hyrogen furnaces, we often heard the thuds as small pockets of gas did not vent correctly and later lit. I have had and have been arround when batteries have exploded, I can see the idea of a lighter than air craft but only trap the hydrogen and not the oxygen, if you got a garbage bag full and it lit we will all hear about it on the national news, about how some damn fool blew up half of Minnisota

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Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 11:04      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh I probably won't ever really do it - but it is fun to dream about. [Big Grin]

Problem with only trapping the H2 is that you then need to plates farther apart so that the bubbles can be seperated. But distance seems to decrease the production rate. Also - pure H2 will only burn as fast as it can mix with O2. So - that would produce more of a fireball and less of a bang. hmmm - maybe that's a good thing to keep the neighbors from wondering so much. [Wink]

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Moe Monkey
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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 13:35      Profile for Moe Monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A typical party balloon (12" diameter) filled with only hydrogen will give a nice, meaty boom and a fireball about three to four feet across (not a sphere, it's shaped by the breaking balloon). You want to light this with a match taped to a long stick!

OTOH, the same balloon filled with a 2:1 hydrogen:oxygen mix (roughly what you would get from electrolysis) will give a deafening bang and a flash -- you probably wouldn't see it as it is very fast. This is not something you want to do in an enclosed room or without earplugs. You will also attract a bit of attention from the neighbours. I wouldn't recommend it.

Moe

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted February 03, 2005 16:55      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
DOCO_______One of the guys I was in the service with claimed that the best time delay fuse was a cigarette, light it up put it in place and drape the fast fuse accross the cigarette

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Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


Benjamin Franklin,

Posts: 5855 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Doco

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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2005 07:49      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So MoeMonkey - how do you know the difference in a pure H2 filled balloon vs an H2 and O2 mixed balloon????

Please speak clearly into the microphone so the proper authorities can determine if you are a terrorist or not [Wink]

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garlicguy

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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2005 11:15      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Doco:
... how do you know the difference in a pure H2 filled balloon vs an H2 and O2 mixed balloon????

By how many windows you blow out, of course. [Big Grin]

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Moe Monkey
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Icon 1 posted February 04, 2005 17:37      Profile for Moe Monkey     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by garlicguy:
quote:
Originally posted by Doco:
... how do you know the difference in a pure H2 filled balloon vs an H2 and O2 mixed balloon????

By how many windows you blow out, of course. [Big Grin]
[Big Grin] That's one way, although only the H2/O2 balloons would have a chance at that...

When I did this a lot, I used to colour-code them -- white balloons for the boom (pure H2) and red balloons for the bang (H2 + O2). These days I just go for the pure H2, haven't done the H2+O2 in a while.

Moe

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Chesty
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Icon 1 posted February 05, 2005 17:06      Profile for Chesty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So, after you get the hydrogen out, how do you get the hair off your eyebrows neatly? When I tried it they just burnt right off, but my wife's electrolosis always makes her eyebrows perfectly shaped.

The green bubb-ubbles could be from any amount of organic junk or minerals in well water. Could be your neighborhood motherboard recycler is dumping arsenic in the ground. could just be worm droppings.

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