The Digital Bits Science Labs are fun science experiments for young children. Kids, make sure you have an adult's permission before trying any of these science experiments.
Digital Bits Science Lab
Science Experiments for Kids, Parents and Teachers
A note of caution on this experiment: One of the gasses produced is chlorine. While this is safe on a small scale, you should not replicate on a large scale without safeguards. Thanks to Larry Robinson for this information – for detail, see his comment below this article.
A simple demonstration of electrolysis – electrocuting water to convert it into hydrogen.
A 9-volt battery
Wire (something low-gauge and flexible is preferred, like copper wire)
Wire stripper (optional, if you’re handy with scissors)
A glass of water
The Digital Bits Science Lab Experiment:
This experiment is a simple demonstration of electrolysis. Electrolysis is the method of breaking apart compounds into their original elements by passing an electric current through them.
Put simply, this experiment shows that if you electrocute water, you’ll get hydrogen.
First, we need to make the electric device that will make the electrolysis happen: get the 9-volt battery, your wire, the scissors and tape. Start stripping the ends of the wire. You will need two strands of wire at least six inches in length. Use the wire stripper or the scissors to strip the rubber sheath from both ends of each wire with the scissors. This will expose the wire itself:
After you’ve stripped both ends from both wires, take one wire and securely tape one stripped metal end to one terminal of the 9-volt battery. Next, do the same with the second wire – tape it to the remaining battery terminal. The result will be our electrolysis device, all ready to go:
The rest is easy:
Get your glass of water. Put a tablespoon or two of salt into it. Stir the salt to dissolve it. The water will become a little cloudy.
Get the electrolysis device. Dip both ends of the wire into the salt water.
You will immediately see bubbles start to fizzle off of one wire. (If you don’t see bubbles, then check to make sure that your wires have a good connection to the battery, and that the battery still holds a charge.)
What’s happening here? These instructions are simple do-it-yourself electrolysis: when you electrocute water (which is made of hydrogen and oxygen), the electricity breaks apart water molecules. The bubbles you see are the hydrogen from the water being released. Salt water improves the electrolysis reaction - fresh water (like in the picture above, since cloudy salt water was difficult to photograph) will still give you bubbles of hydrogen, but it won’t be as impressive as with salt water.