Basic Fundamentals

This experiment is just for advanced students. If you guessed that this has to do with electricity and chemistry, you’re right! But you might wonder how they work together. Back in 1800, William Nicholson and Johann Ritter were the first ones to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis. (Soon afterward, Ritter went on to figure out electroplating.) They added energy in the form of an electric current into a cup of water and captured the bubbles forming into two separate cups, one for hydrogen and other for oxygen.

This experiment is not an easy one, so feel free to skip it if you need to. You don’t need to do this to get the concepts of this lesson but it’s such a neat and classical experiment (my students love it) so you can give it a try if you want to. The reason I like this is because what you are really doing in this experiment is ripping molecules apart and then later crashing them back together.

Have fun and please follow the directions carefully. This could be dangerous if you’re not careful. The image shown here is using graphite from two pencils sharpened on both ends, but the instructions below use wire.  Feel free to try both to see which types of electrodes provide the best results.

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2 Responses to “Basic Fundamentals”
  1. bac051201 says:

    oops. i meant AA.

  2. bac051201 says:

    I have seen a similar reaction, however, you are supposed to place 3 AAA batteries in water for an hour and you will supposedly be able to light the water on fire. is this the same reaction?

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