Demonstrating Simple Photochemistry With Silver Chloride


Introduction: Demonstrating Simple Photochemistry With Silver Chloride

About: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already online and we thought "we could do better".....

We show the chemistry of photography using silver chloride that we make ourselves from table salt and silver nitrate.

Silver chloride has the interesting property that it reacts to light. This photosensitive chemical will decompose into dark silver powder and chlorine.

To make it, just mix one gram of silver nitrate made in our previous video ( ) and half a gram of table salt in separate quantities of water. Then mix the two solutions with shaking, this forms silver chloride. Then let it stand for five minutes. This will cause the silver chloride to settle to the bottom. After five minutes pour off the extra liquid. Spread out the silver in a layer onto a piece of paper. Let it dry in darkness as you don't want the light to expose it before you're ready. Once it is dry, place a stencil or template of something you want "photographed" over the silver chloride. You might want to weigh it down with a piece of glass.

When you're ready, shine a strong light onto it for ten minutes or so. The silver chloride will darken in the areas that are exposed to light. Remove the glass and template and you will have a negative photo of what you placed over it.

The image won't keep forever, eventually the whole thing will darken.

This is ofcourse a very simple experiment and modern photography is far superior, including the use of darkroom techniques, developer solutions and means of 'fixing' the image. The above demonstration is just that, a demonstration, and is not meant to offend experts in the field of photography and photochemistry.

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    i once made salted paper using silver nitrate and salt{non iodized is best} it didnt work out to smooth because the paper i used didnt have a high enough rag content. and several small splashes on my bathroom counter turned into deep purplish black smears {which i had work real hard to remove}. what you have done here is recreate some of the earliest experiments in silver halide photography. good job

    3 replies

    Thanks! I was initially quite reluctant to put this up because i've seen modern photography enthusiasts go through a dozen steps with a high degree of precision and accuracy to create awesome full-color photos. I was afraid they would think i was trivializing their accomplishments by doing this "high-school science fair" procedure. I'm very pleased you like it.

     Not to be that crazy photographer, but it wouldnt be that difficult to include a sodium thiosulfate fixing bath as a last step. Creating some sort of lasting (semi) image is the coolest part for me.

    Great instructable!

    true that, i'm definitely planning to update this instructable with better reactions, and a fixing step to make a permanent image.

    Thanks for reminding me :)

    This is awesome! I really want to try this. Are there any other chemicals that can be used in place of the silver chloride?

    Do not you can set the photo using lavandin or something?

    4 replies

    ofcourse, but the demonstration is more or a elss a simple high-school science fair project aimed at students. So most of the complications are skipped over to make it simple enough that a child can do it. As said in the video description its just a demonstration of simple photochemistry, and not meant to really show higher level photography techniques.

    Thanks by the response. 1) I didn't see the video because I'm at work, and the "electronic babysitter" prevents us this. 2) Although I had seen it, my English skills are not enough to understand it spoken. 3) I want to make stenopeic photograph using your technic. Maybe this year...

    Oh, if you're having trouble understanding the spoken word then you can go to the youtube video and turn on "closed captions" so you can see subtitles. Might be much easier to understand then.

    Ah, I didn't know that!. Thank you very much, I will try it.