Introduction: Collecting Hydrogen and Oxygen

Picture of Collecting Hydrogen and Oxygen

In this instructable I'll give you a simple way to collect Hydrogen gas and if you want also, to collect Oxygen. Depending on the voltage and current that you use for the project this could be hazardous. I used a 14.4 volt power drill battery pack for the process but don't recommend it, I only used it to achieve a noticeable effect in a short time period (about 20 minutes).

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

The required materials are:
-Sufficient length of wire
-DC power source
-Deep water basin or bowl (preferably plastic, there is a chance you could ruin a metal one)
-Water, logically
-Weak acid (ex.vinegar as acetic acid)
-At least two plastic bottles with caps (I like the Gatorade ones because they are thicker and for some reason the Hydrogen at least will compress itself after a few days)
-A sacrificial pencil (or if you have lead [graphite] from an architect's pencil use that instead)
-Small pencil lead case or even just the cap (the refill material case for mechanical pencils)
-Marker to label the gases
-Long piece of tubing if you cannot find a bowl deep enough
-One sided blade or knife if you use a pencil

-You may also want other materials to plate or turn into Oxide salts

Step 2: The Non-Electric Setup

Picture of The Non-Electric Setup

Fill your bowl most of the way with water, the purity of which doesn't make much difference so long as you don't use mud or something. Now add your salt or weak acid to the water, it doesn't take a large amount of either to get a good result so be moderate with it you can always add more later but can't take it out. Fill the two bottles as full as you can with tap water and carefully put it into the water so that the lip of the bottle is turned down, do this with the second bottle. Make about two or three fingers worth of room between the bottom of the bowl and the lip of the bottle and tape it to the side so that the tape is not underwater. If you were unable to get all the air out this is the point where you want to get out that tubing and put it in the bottle while still underwater and suck the air out but try not to get a mouthful of acid or saltwater in your mouth.

Step 3: Electric Setup

Picture of Electric Setup

Take the pencil and shave off the wood so that all you have left is graphite, if it breaks wait to throw it way if it is long enough you may be fine. Then take two lengths of wire and strip the ends off for each wire wrap one end for both around a length of the graphite. Then take your pencil lead (graphite) case and push putty into it so that it is a solid mass and has no cracks. Take one of the wires and push the end with the graphite into it so that none of the metal of the wire is showing but the graphite is. Then secure the ends of the wires that do not have graphite to your DC source
IMPORTANT-place the wire with the case on the positive (generally red) end of your source otherwise the unshielded wire will dissolve into an oxide salt

Step 4: Combined Setup

Picture of Combined Setup

Now you're ready to place your electrodes into the electrolyte (saltwater / dilute acid). Arrange the electrodes so that the bubbles are floating into the bottles. If you have no bubbles then you did something wrong if you only have bubbles coming out of the negative side then you may be using actual lead (unless you are intentionally oxidizing some other metal this is normal).

Step 5: Filling and Conatainment

Picture of Filling and Conatainment

Now all you have to do is wait for the bottles to become filled with the gas coming from the electrodes. When doing this the unshielded wire's bottle should be filling faster, about twice as fast because water is two parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen (and because they are both part of the diatomic BrINClHOF [If you have not taken Chemistry disregard this statement it's not important]). If the unshielded wire is making less than the shielded one, turning blue or falls off then you may have switched the charges.

If / when they do fill take the bottle cap of that bottle and make a ring around the inside of the cap and place it underwater and screw it on without letting air out or in. Once you do this use your marker to label it the bottle with the unshielded wire is Hydrogen and the shielded one is Oxygen if you did this correctly.

Step 6: Extra Possibilities

Picture of Extra Possibilities

Along with making Hydrogen and Oxygen there are other things you can do with this concept. One is Making Oxide salts (i.e. metal+Oxygen such as Fe2O3) although this will not allow you to collect gaseous Oxygen, you can make pigments out of this such as turquoise blue with Copper or Orange with Iron. You can also make Aluminum powder for thermite, with the positive being Aluminum and the negative being Carbon (Graphite/pencil lead) the Aluminum either does not bond or it decomposes. If I'm wrong it will stay bonded but can still be used as a pyrotechnic. You may also plate a metal using this with the plating metal on the positive and the object to be plated on the negative although this will also crate it's oxide. All you have to remember is that the positive will dissolve into an oxide salt and the negative will be plated. Have fun experimenting


Hammerguy84 (author)2015-11-10

Just a note and disclaimer; if you use table salt (i.e. NaCl) you WILL end up with chlorine gas and hydrogen gas. Chlorine gas is poisonous and must be respected as such. If you use vinegar you will get the desired oxygen and hydrogen. I repeat; if you use table salt, you WILL get poisonous chlorine gas. Just watch the bottles and whichever bottle had the yellow-greenish tinted gas had the chlorine. Be smart!

mykiscool (author)2015-05-12

2.0 mm graphite $1:

Sure beats shaving the pencil. So easy to break the lead... D:

m5industriesinc (author)2010-06-17

what brand drill battery did you use (just curious)?

Matt428 (author)m5industriesinc2013-10-03

It doesn't really matter what kind it is, as long as it is dc

BOOM5601 (author)2009-09-24

I put a bridge rectifier on a power cord. It was pumping like there was no tomorrow. But then the electrodes touched and bye-bye insulation and diodes.

tom10122 (author)BOOM56012012-11-14

Damn! A diode bridge? Man that must be like 480v right?

ALogan97 (author)2011-08-18

This is awesome, because I need both gases for a project I'm going to do in the near future, but am on a cheap budget with barely any lab equipment. I'll post the project as an instructable and link to this as a source of oxygen and hydrogen.

ubuntuPenguin (author)2011-05-18

could you use a standard small 9V battery?

willfrey55 (author)2011-05-16

Zinc screws? Is it possible to use some other type of screw?

SuperKuper (author)2011-04-13

If you use NaCl as your electrolyte won't the green bottle be full of Chlorine gas and not Oxygen? Not sure what would happen if you used vinegar. I only want to make hydrogen gas, and a lot of it. I don't care if there's is oxygen or not, I'm just going to vent it. I don't want to make chlorine, and I would prefer not to have oxide salts (not a big deal I just don't want to clean them out all the time, I just want to be able to fill it up with water and electrolytes and go).

so with all that in mind, what combination of electrolytes and anode would be best?

ReCreate (author)2009-03-17

So this oxygen,Is it breatheable? What is generated more,Hydrogen or oxygen? Also if the voltage is raised,Will the gas come out faster? Also as it makes hydrogen and oxygen does it end up with less water?

bylerfamily (author)ReCreate2009-06-02

No,the higher the amps the more hydrogen and oxygen.And no,this oxygen is not breathable.

ReCreate (author)bylerfamily2009-06-02

Or so the current is what matters not voltage? And, What would happen if i breathe this oxygen?

bylerfamily (author)ReCreate2009-06-02

The voltage matters,you want low voltage at high amps.Something like a 50 amp car battery charger would work very well.You would feel kind of blah,you might be staggering around.If you try it and nothing happens then it should be okay to breath.

freakyqwerty (author)bylerfamily2011-01-02

Pure oxyegen is bad for you in the same way hyperventerlating is for you.

ReCreate (author)bylerfamily2009-06-02

50 Amps? How would that work? The outlet only contains 10 15 amps at most. Would a lead acid battery do the job good?

bylerfamily (author)ReCreate2009-06-03

You know about microwave oven transformers?They reduce the voltage and makes a huge increase in amps.Well,the car battery charger works the same way.It has a transformer which has very thick wire wound at the secondary.That decreases the voltage and increases the amps.A lead acid battery would work just fine.

ReCreate (author)bylerfamily2009-06-03

ah good.

bylerfamily (author)ReCreate2009-06-23

If you happen to have a computer power supply the 5v line will do the job well.

Jodex (author)bylerfamily2010-09-29

Hey, would a stick welding inverter do the job? It sure has amps, and yes, mine is DC not AC.

ReCreate (author)bylerfamily2009-06-23

Really? Well then, I do have a PSU...

bylerfamily (author)ReCreate2009-06-24

Just follow one of the many computer power supply ibles.

ReCreate (author)bylerfamily2009-06-24

ah no...I already know how to do it myself

As you raise the voltage, the current should raise linearly according to Ohm's law.


Ivraine (author)bylerfamily2009-09-01

Actually, The oxygen is totally safe, it just doesn't contain nitrogen, or pollution, which makes it lighter than air. It is common in diving because it decreases the chance of "the bends" because it contains no nitrogen. It also causes better combustion because it contains no nitrogen.

pindalanderz (author)ReCreate2009-04-28

pure oxygen is breathable when diluted with nitrogen and helium and other gases. more hydrogen is generated. the gas should come out faster if the voltage is raised. it does end up with less water. both hydrogen and oxygen are extremely flammable. if you mix the two gases and give them a shock it is basically the most violent reaction known to mankind besides a nuclear reaction and very few selected other substances.

ReCreate (author)pindalanderz2009-04-28

the oxygen supports fire,the hydrogen Is flamable So i can't breathe this oxygen by it self? What would happen if i put it with the 120V of the outlet?

pindalanderz (author)ReCreate2009-07-02

breathing pure oxygen is not good but possible. you would get really really high and probably O.D. if you breathed pure Oxygen. you have to breathe very little oxygen to get what you need but you also need something to fill your lungs. so no-you can't breathe pure oxygen by itself.

ReCreate (author)pindalanderz2009-07-02

Really? So if someone was in a gas chamber filled with oxygen they would die?

pindalanderz (author)ReCreate2009-07-02

they would get really high and suffocate.

hassehans (author)pindalanderz2010-09-27

I'm a certified scuba diving instructor, enriched air diving instructor, emergency oxygen provider instructor and emergency first response instructor. That is - I get payed to teach in these matters.

Here is some *real* information based on scientific facts: Oxygen has two different toxic effects, described below:

1) Lung poisoning. Oxygen, at atmospheric pressure, is toxic to the lungs, but it takes many hours of exposure before the effects of toxicity occurs. This is called the Lorraine Smith effect, and creates problems for the breathing systems. On the other hand, pure oxygen very beneficial for some types on injuries that diving and drowning accidents can cause. For that reason, most diving operations give 100% oxygen in case of an accident. Since it takes many hours before oxygen toxicity occurs, it is not considered a problem for emergency medical use - by the time oxygen toxicity becomes a problem the patient will already be at a hospital and the doctor will make sure it doesn't occur.

2) The other effect is that oxygen at high pressure, such as when diving, is toxic to the central nervous system (CNS). This is simply called called CNS toxicity. For this to occur, the oxygen partial pressure needs to exceed  about 1.6 bar/23 psi. This would be at 6 meters/20 feet under water if you were diving with 100% oxygen as the breathing gas. If you're diving with air (21% oxygen), CNS toxicity would occur at about 60 meters / 200 feet. The symptoms of CNS toxicity includes sudden loss of consciousness which is why diving to deep with (oxygen) enriched air is very dangerous.

Breathing oxygen at atmospheric for short periods (less than several hours) of time is completely safe. It has no narcotic effects. We do it all the time on the courses we hold at the dive center where I work. Apparently, pure oxygen helps get rid of hangovers, although I haven't tried it myself.

The reason some divers dive with helium is that both nitrogen and oxygen gets narcotic at high pressures, while helium doesn't. The cause of this is unknown. The narcotic effects are well known to any scuba diver who has been diving deeper than 25 meters / 82 feet - that is; most divers beyond entry level.

References: The encyclopedia of recreational diving, chapter two. PADI rescue diver manual. PADI enriched air diving manual.

you are terribly wrong. you obviously dont know anything about human respiration. The only gas we ever need to breath to live is oxygen, so we could live in an environment completely composed of oxygen. total oxygen environments were used in soviet/russian space modules/stations, untill a fire broke out in one of them and killed the crew quickly because of the excess oxygen. You will also have to use a total oxygen environment if you have "the bends," a condition contracted if you surface too fast after scuba diving. They put you in it to diffuse the nitrogen bubbles in your blood stream that cause the pains of "the bends". you cant get high with oxygen because when you are high on a gas, the reason that you feel that way is because of the lack of oxygen to your brain. The other way you get high is with certain stimulants that cause the hormones that are related to happiness increase to extreme levels to give you a high feeling. So no, getting a lot of oxygen would not do anything to you but cause a small decrease in lung size.

Just to give everyone the Real info
Pure Oxygen gas can be very dangerous to breath
little lesson oh how we breath
the body will only exhale when the level of co2 vs oxygen in the lung gets to high you automaticly breath out
so breathing pure oxygen is ok, if you remember to breath however
for things like space shuttles, and alike there if always co2 in the air for this reason
if your lung only contain oxygen you brain doesn't realise it needs more and will not exhale
in other words you suffocate

excuse me for making an educated guess. my chemistry teacher is a scuba diver and he told us that they do not use pure oxygen for scuba diving because there are better things they can use. I really don't know why you would want to breathe pure oxygen go ahead I guess. I was just discouraging inhaling pure oxygen for recreational purposes unless it's an emergency.

o im sorry if i sounded harsh

just a bit : ) it's ok. though

ReCreate (author)pindalanderz2009-07-02

Suffocate in an oxygen enviorment? O_o ironic...

dont listen to pindalanderz, he doesn't know what he is talking about

on the contrary, I guess I just don't know what gasses you can and can't get high from.

any gas besides oxygen, helium, hydrogen (NOT recommended, its explosive), xenon, neon, you get the idea

what i meant to say was "any gas besides oxygen. This would include helium, hydrogen (NOT recommended, its explosive), xenon, neon, you get the idea

neon? someone could run an electric current through you and you would glow blue and other colors. (O.K.) I reallize probably not.

actually neon glows red, oxygen glows blue, Argon+mercury glows blue,helium is pinkish, krypton is light purple, and xenon is a dark purple.

how exactly do you have to do it? can you just fill a glass tube with neon and say hook up a nine-volt battery? (negative on one side, positive on the other) would that work?

not exactly, you would have to have a lot of voltage to be able to turn a gas into a conductor, and you might also need some type of device to allow the gas to be ionized for easier conduction

Oh haha :)

phenoptix (author)ReCreate2009-07-02

Hydrogen is more explosive that flammable, it goes "pop" when you ignite it with a glowing splint. The oxygen will reignite a glowing splint.

ReCreate (author)phenoptix2009-07-02


bloke2022 (author)ReCreate2009-07-27

two times as much hydrogen than oxygen
the hydrogen and oxygen is not made, it is the water! so yes the water level will go down.

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