Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coin Trick

There's a semi famous trick of turning copper coins into silver and gold coins.  Notice the word 'trick'? It's not actually real silver and gold but it gives a nice decorative effect.

For this trick you will need zinc sulphate which can be bought cheaply online.  Or you can make it by dissolving zinc metal into sulphuric acid.

Silver Coin

Drop in some zinc metal and a clean copper coin into a strong solution of zinc sulphate and bring it to boil for about 15 minutes.  The zinc and copper must be touching.  The coin will be coated in a layer of zinc metal which looks like silver.

Gold Coin

To turn a coin gold you must first coat it in a layer of zinc, as shown above.  Then you must heat it to about 300 degrees Celsius until the zinc and copper form a coating of brass.  Drop in into some water to cool it down and it will have the appearance of gold.

Protip: This works on anything copper, so you can also make gold and silver bling.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Make Iodine

In my last post I explained how to make exploding paste from ammonia and iodine. In some areas iodine cannot be purchased since it's used by the meth heads to make their stuff.

However you can make iodine yourself using an alkali metal iodide and concentrated sulphuric acid.

I normally use potassium iodide because it's cheap and easy to get hold of, (eBay) but sodium iodide will also work.

Add a few table spoons of your iodide into a heat resistant tub and place it into an ice bath. This reaction will get very hot. Using a dropper slowly add concentrated sulphuric acid to your iodide, it will turn into a sticky black paste at first, but keep adding acid until it turns into a black liquid.

Pour your black messy liquid into a large container of cold water and give it a good stir. Give it a few minutes for the iodine to precipitate at the bottom.

Slowly pour off the dark liquid and at the bottom you'll find a thick residue of wet iodine. Scoop this out and let it dry.

Iodine vaporises at a low temperature so leave it to dry in a cool place and not a warm place or you'll have wasted your time.

There you go; iodine has more uses than exploding paste and I'll explain them at some point in the near future.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Make Exploding Paste

Here in Britain there’s a TV show called Brainiac, and there’s a prank where a low explosive paste is placed on objects and a hidden camera watches an unsuspecting victim touch it.  Lulz were had.

Today I’m going to explain how to make it.  If you've watched the show then you'll already know one of the ingredients is iodine (which can be bought from a pharmacy).  The ‘secret ingredient’ is household ammonia. 

To make your paste, crush iodine into a fine powder, and add about 6 times volume of ammonia.  Stir for a while, you’ll notice small bubbles of hydrogen gas forming.  When the bubbles stop, the reaction is complete.  Allow the mixture to settle for 10 minutes, pour off the water and unreacted ammonia solution, your paste is ready.

You can store it for later use by keeping it in an airtight tub with a few drops of water.  Storing it for prolonged periods of time will slowly degrade it.

To use, paste it onto a surface and allow to dry.  Touching it will cause it to explode. 

Have fun! (And don't use too much at once, or it could seriously hurt whoever touches it (Which would probably be you))

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Make Fire from Sulphuric Acid and Potassium Chlorate

Disaster! You find yourself lost in the wilderness, night is approaching and you will freeze to death if you don't start a fire quick! You are not carrying matches, flint or lighters.  Luckily you happen to have sugar, potassium chlorate and concentrated sulphuric acid on your person.  Phew.

Prepare yourself a bundle of twigs and hay and in the middle, add a pile of 50/50 mixed sugar and potassium chlorate.  Slowly add drops of sulphuric acid until it bursts into flames.  Safe at last!

Remember kids, always carry concentrated sulphuric acid, sugar and potassium chlorate with you at all times.  

Here's how it works: 

Sulphuric acid reacts with the potassium chlorate to form potassium sulphate, hydrochloric acid and a lot of heat...
  • 2KClO3 + H2SO4 →  HClO3 + K2SO4
The heat decomposes the potassium chlorate into oxygen...
  • 2KClO3 => 2KCl + 3O2
The large oxygen supply plus the high temperatures causes the sugar to burn violently.


Friday, September 17, 2010

So you want to die (part 1)

Note: Don't do this. Ever.  This post satire and is written to highlight how dangerous messing with chemicals can be.

So you want to die but can't afford that .45 and you've misplaced your rope for a noose.  Fear not, using simple home chemistry you will be dead in no time.

Grab yourself some high chlorine bleach and Ammonia solution and mix them together in a tub.  

How this will kill you will depend on what proportions were used in the mixing

Death by Chloramine

The bleach decomposes to form hydrochloric acid, which reacts with ammonia to form toxic chloramine fumes:
First the hydrochloric acid is formed:
NaOCl → NaOH + HOCl
HOCl → HCl + O
And then the ammonia and chlorine gas react to form chloramine, which is released as a vapor:
NaOCl + 2HCl → Cl2 + NaCl + H2O
2NH3 + Cl2 2NH2Cl
Death by hydrazine 
If you accidentally added too much ammonia, toxic and potentially explosive liquid hydrazine may be formed. While impure hydrazine tends not to explode, it's still toxic, plus it can boil and spray hot toxic liquid.

2NH3 + NaOCl → N2H4 + NaCl + H2O
You see those chemicals in red? They're red because they will kill you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Get Lithium from Lithium Batteries

Lithium is a very reactive alkali metal and is usually only found in metallic form in laboratories.  It can be pulled from lithium batteries with a little bit of force and a pair of pliers.

It’s a good idea to have an air-tight container filled with methanol to store the lithium, as it will quickly corrode in the air.

Grab a fresh lithium battery (used ones won’t work) and carefully peel back the outer casing of the battery to explode the core.  It’s easy to accidentally short out the battery, if you do you should submerge it in water to prevent fire or an explosion.

Once you have peeled off the outer casing, unravel the core and discard the plastic sheets and electrolyte.  There should be a thin strip of dirty lithium metal; you can wash it in methanol to clean it.  Store it in an air tight container to prevent it from corroding.

To test that this is lithium, cut a small piece off and drop it in water, it will react violently giving off hydrogen gas and creating Lithium Hydroxide.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Common Household Chemicals

Small Update showing some common household chemicals with their scientific names:

  • White Vinegar - Dilute Acetic Acid - CH3COOH + H2O
  • Nail polish remover - Acetone - CH3COCH3
  • Ammonia - Ammonium Hydroxide - NH4OH
  • Table Salt - Sodium Chloride - NaCl
  • Sugar - Sucrose - C12H22O11
  • Saltpeter - Potassium Nitrate - KNO3
  • Quicklime - Calcium Oxide - CaO
  • Battery Acid - Sulphuric Acid - H2SO4
  • Baking Soda - Sodium Bicarbonate - NaHCO3
  • Epsom Salts - Magnesium Sulphate - MgSO4
  • Plaster of Paris - Calcium Sulphate -  CaSO4
  • Slacked Lime - Calcium Hydroxide - Ca(OH)2
  • Chalk - Calcium Carconate - CaCO3

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Make Bleach and Oven Cleaner from Salt

CAUTION: Chlorine Gas is formed, do this in a well ventilated area.

This is a very similar procedure described in the Extracting Hydrogen and Chlorine from brine experiment but this will make 2 useful byproducts.

Set up the apparatus as shown with brine (table salt dissolved in water) as the electrolyte.  The brine soaked rag joining the two jars are to allow a current to pass through without contaminating the different the byproducts formed in each jar.

Chlorine will form from the anode and dissolve into the newly formed sodium hydroxide to produce sodium chlorate.

The cathode will bubble hydrogen gas and form pure sodium hydroxide.

When the reaction is complete no more bubbles will form and you'll have a jar of homemade bleach (sodium chlorate) and home make oven cleaner (sodium hydroxide, or commonly called lye)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to make copper sulphate (method 1)

Copper sulphate is a useful chemical used to electroplate copper onto various metallic items; it’s also used to control algae growth and to make blue crystals.  It can easily be purchased cheaply online but if you’re a nerd like me you’ll have more fun making it yourself.

This method will show you how to make it using battery acid (sulphuric acid) and some copper wires.

Insert the ends of copper wires connected to a battery into a jar of sulphuric acid without the touching.  The anode(+) could be connected to a large copper sheet or piece of copper pipe to increase surface area.   Copper ions will be deducted from the anode and replaced with the hydrogen ions in the acid.  The hydrogen ions will combine and be released as hydrogen gas.  Your anode will eventually disintegrate and will need to be replaced. 

H2SO4 + Cu => H2 + CuSO4

When no more hydrogen gas is produced the reaction is complete and you have copper sulphate dissolved in water.  This can be evaporated into crystals.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Extracting Chlorine and Oxygen from Brine

CAUTION: Chlorine is toxic.  No breathing it in please.

Today I’ll explain how to extract chlorine gas and hydrogen gas from brine using a process knows as electrolysis.  You will need brine, a battery and 2 carbon electrodes (these can be pulled out from pencils).  Set up your battery and electrodes and making sure the anode and cathode (that’s the positive and negetive terminals) don’t touch, insert them into a saturated brine solution.

From your cathode(-) you’ll see hydrogen gas bubbling away, and chlorine from the anode(+).  Sodium and Hydroxide ions are left beind in the brine solution, which will combine slowly turning your sodium chloride solution into sodium hydroxide.  Chlorine might react with the newly formed sodium hydroxide producing a contamination of sodium chlorate.

Equasion for this reaction: 2NaCl + 2H2O => H2 + Cl2 + 2NaOH

Monday, September 6, 2010

Make thermite at home

CAUTION: Thermite is almost impossible to extinguish once ignited, do not do this anywhere near your house or valuables.  I do not recommend anyone do this unless you know what you’re doing.

Thermite is the stuff of legends, everyone knows what it is but few know how to make it.  Well it’s simple; all you need are empty aluminium cans and rust.  No seriously, that’s all it is.

NOTE: If you’re lazy you can buy aluminium powder and iron oxide from eBay no questions asked, but as usual this is about science not convenience.

Using a coffee grinder shred your aluminium cans into a fine powder, the smaller the grains the better.   If you have an old etch-a-sketch you can crack that open and collect the dust, it is pure aluminium powder.

Collect rust from anything rusty, you can make your own by soaking iron nails in a weak solution of brine.  You can make it a fine powder by using the coffee grinder method.

The proportions need to be correct for this to work.  Mix 3 parts aluminium to 8 parts rust (by weight).  You can mix by volume too but due to inconsistencies in particle size it may not be accurate, but the mixture is usually 50-50 by volume.

To light it, use a sparkler or strip of magnesium as a fuse, stand well back and enjoy.

Chemical equation: Fe2O+ 2Al  => 2Fe + Al2O3

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Make a pH indicator with red cabbage

Testing for acids and bases usually requires universal indicator or litmus which isn’t exactly a common home material.  This experiment will show you how to make an indicator with nothing but red cabbage and tap water.

Chop up red cabbage into small chunks and place them into a pot of boiling water.  Soluble flavin will dissolve into the water giving it a deep purple/red colour.  Allow to cool and pour off this solution.

 DONE! Easy wasn’t it?

You can test it on a variety of house cold chemicals to see their acidity.  Strong acids will be red, weak acids purplish red, neutral is purple, weak alkaline is blue and strong alkaline is green.

Suggestions on acidic and alkaline chemicals to test:
  • Lemon juice
  • Oven cleaner
  • Washing soda
  • White vinegar
  • Antacid tablets
  • Carbonated water

Friday, September 3, 2010

Make Potassium Chlorate (Flash powder ingredient)

Do this procedure in a well ventilated area as chlorine gas is formed.  You do not want that stuff in your lungs.

Potassium chlorate is a very reactive oxidiser and is a favourite among pyrotechnics.  It’s the key ingredient in many types of flash powder, and here I’ll explain how to make it using nothing but household bleach and potassium based salt alternatives.

Get high chlorine bleach and pour it into a heat resistant glass or ceramic bowl (not metal), bring it to boil to evaporate the water and also to decompose the sodium hypochlorite into sodium chlorate and Sodium Chloride.

Keep heating until crystals of sodium chloride begin forming then take it off heat and allow to cool, placing in a fridge for best results.  When cool, pour off the remaining liquid and discard the solid precipitate.

Next, measure out an equal amount of lukewarm water and dissolve into it your potassium based salt alternative (sold alongside regular table salt).  After the water is saturated, ie: when no more can dissolve into it, pour it into your leftover bleach/sodium chlorate solution.

The sodium chlorate and potassium chloride will react to form potassium chlorate and sodium chloride.

Equation for this reaction:

KCl + NaCLO3 => NaCl + KClO3

The newly formed potassium chlorate will precipitate into crystals due to a difference in solubility, and then all you need to do is collect these crystals; most likely by running it through a coffee filter.  Discard the liquid and admire your lovely white highly dangerous potassium chlorate.

Easy Invisible Ink

Today we’ll McGeiver some invisible ink using nothing but staples, white vinegar and a damp teabag.  Most people already know about the lemon juice/heater method but with this one you won’t need to burn your paper to reveal the message.

Get about a quarter of a glass of white vinegar and drop in a load of staples.  Paperclips, nails or any other non galvanised iron or steel object will work too but staples being small will have more surface area to react with the vinegar.  The acetic acid in the vinegar will react with the iron to make iron acetate, the key ingredient for the ink.

Leave this to sit for at least a day.  When complete, pour off your vinegar/iron acetate solution into a clean jar and throw away the manky staples.  Using a pen of sorts you can now write with this ink.

Revealing the message is as simple as rubbing over it with a warm damp teabag.  The iron acetate will slowly turn dark and your message (or crudely drawn genitalia) will show like magic.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Make Explosive Hydrogen Gas with Sodium Carbonate

It's easy to make explosive hydrogen gas using only household chemicals.  For this experiment all you'll need is sodium carbonate (made earlier or just use washing soda), water and aluminium foil.  For equipment you'll need a large plastic container and a jar that can fit in it.

See diagram below for explanation.

Set up the jar and tub diagram as shown using warm water. When ready, dissolve in a generous amount of sodium carbonate without letting air into the upturned jar.  About 5 to 6 teaspoons should be enough.  When dissolved, scrunch up a few balls on aluminium foil and place them under the jar.  Bubbles of hydrogen will start to form and fill up the jar.


When it is about 3 thirds full, pull out your jar and place a lid on it.  There needs to be about 1 third air in your jar for the best explosion.  The explosion isn't terribly impressive and be quite safely ignited with only a match at arms length.  When you want to ignite your hydrogen, prepare a match, unscrew the lid and drop it in (be quick before the gas escapes).  You'll notice water vapour condensing in the jar, as hydrogen burns with oxygen to make water.

The explosion is more of a fast burn but will guarantee to make younger siblings scream and demand more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Concentrated Sulphuric Acid

CAUTION: Acids are very dangerous, especially concentrated acids.  So I want to see gloves and GOGGLES PEOPLE!

Getting your hands on Sulphuric acid is much easier than you might think, there's probably at least a liter of it in your car right now!  Yes, battery acid as it's commonly called is sulphuric acid.  I'm 'privileged' enough to live near a recycling centre where every weekend scavengers are allowed in to take whatever their grubby mitts can carry, and I was one of them.  You can find used car batteries at any dump or recycling centre of probably in your shed.

Getting the acid out is an simple as unscrewing the caps and pouring it into a container (NOT a metal container as acid will happily dissolve through most metals). However the acid will be contaminated with lead and carbon.  Leave the acid to stand until most of the particles settled to the bottom and carefully pour the cleaner acid into another container (again, not a metal one).  If you're patient you can filter off the acid through a coffee filter to get rid of all the lead particles.

Now to concentrate it, this is a simple evaporation process but you'll need a bit of head too as sulphuric acid is very hygroscopic (that means is absorbs water from the air easily).  Place your acid in a glass or ceramic saucepan and place a lid on top of it as the acid will spit.  Gently heat it until it simmers and keep it at this temperature.  The water will evaporate and your acid with a much higher boiling point will be left behind.

Once your acid is approaching concentrated levels the simmering will slow down and your acid may turn a murky brown colour.  Keep heating for a little while longer.  When it starts to fume violently it's done. Don't breath in the fumes. You can test it by poring several drops onto a small pile of sugar.  If it turns black and steams, it's concentrated.  This acid will do more or less the same thing to your skin so gloves please.

When you are happy with your acid you can pour it into a plastic container with an air right lid for storage.  The container needs to be plastic to resist attack and air tight to stop the acid absorbing moisture from the air.

Decompose Bicarbonate of Soda to Sodium Carbonate

First few posts we'll start with some boring and easy ones then use the chemicals created to do some more fun stuff!

What it is
Sodium Carbonate, commonly knows as Soda Ash is a white powder which has a slight soapy feel, it's highly alkaline and can be used in a number of home experiments.  It can be bought in large quantities online or simply as Washing Soda, but this isn't about saving a few pennies it's about the science.

Bicarbonate of soda (not to be confused with baking powder) can be decomposed into sodium carbonate which releases water and carbon dioxide by simply heating it.  Spread out a thin layer of your sodium bicarbonate into a glass or ceramic heating dish and put it in your oven for a good hour or so.  Temperature doesn't matter, as long as it's well over 70 degrees C.  It's hard to know when the bicarbonate of soda has finished decomposing as both it and sodium carbonate look the same, just keep heating until no more steam is formed then heat it some more.

When done, allow to cool down.  FIN!

Equation for this decomposition is:

2NaHCO3 => CO2 + H2O + Na2CO3