Introduction: How to Make Hydrogen Gas

How to make hydrogen gas and some of the experiments that you can perform with it, including floating a trash bag, burning bubbles, exploding a trash bag and an egg.

To make the hydrogen, aluminium, sodium hydroxide and water are combined in a flask. This creates hydrogen in an exothermic reaction, which means that it heats up rapidly. Because of the heat we also obtain water vapour which can carry traces of sodium hydroxide, to remove this the gas is passed through cold water in a device called a bubbler.

Storing the hydrogen is accomplished by a system that displaces water from one container into another. The gas is pressurised by the weight of the water and can be released by a tap when required. The storage system gives a visual indication of how much gas has been stored and used, which is useful during experimentation..

Step 1: Watch the Video!

Watch the video for how to make hydrogen and the cool stuff you can do with it!

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Step 2: Gas Generation Parts Required

  • 6mm or 1/4 inch pipe
  • One large 1.7 or 2 litre soda bottle
  • 500ml (or greater) Erlenmeyer glass heatproof flask
  • Rubber stopper with hole to fit the flask
  • Glass soda straw to fit the hole in the rubber stopper
  • Epoxy adhesive
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Step drill
  • Hacksaw

Step 3: Make the Gas Generation System

  • Cut two lengths of tube 30cm / 1ft and 60cm / 2ft
  • Sand the top of the soda bottle
  • Drill two holes through the soda bottle top
  • Enlarge the holes with a step drill until the pipes just fit through
  • The 60cm / 2ft pipe should pass through the cap and just reach the bottom of the soda bottle
  • The 30cm / 1ft pipe should pass through the cap by approx 10mm
  • Glue the pipes in place using epoxy adhesive
  • Push the glass soda straw through the rubber stopper hole
  • Heat the end of the 60cm / 2ft pipe to make it more flexible
  • Push the end of the 60cm / 2ft pipe over the glass soda straw
  • The rubber stopper fits into the neck of the Erlenmeyer flask

Step 4: Gas Storage Parts Required

  • Two large 1.7 or 2 litre soda bottles
  • 6mm or ¼” pipe
  • Non return or check valve
  • 6mm or ¼” aquarium tap
  • Hard plastic party straws
  • Epoxy adhesive
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Step drill
  • Hacksaw

Step 5: Prepare the Gas Storage Bottle Top

  • Cut two 5cm or 2" lengths of the party straw
  • Cut one 3cm or 1" length of the party straw
  • Sand the 1st soda bottle lid inside and out
  • Drill three holes through the lid
  • Enlarge the holes with a step drill until the straws can just fit through
  • Sand the bottom of the shorter straw
  • Sand the middle of the two longer straws
  • Fit the straws through the lid
  • Glue the straws in place inside and outside using epoxy adhesive

Step 6: Prepare the Expansion Bottle Base

  • Cut a 5cm or 2 inch section of straw
  • Sand the base of the second soda bottle
  • Drill a hole through the base of the second soda bottle
  • Enlarge the hole with a step drill until the straw just fits through
  • Sand the base of the straw
  • Fit the straw into the hole in the base of the second soda bottle
  • Using epoxy adhesive glue the straw into place

Step 7: Prepare the Expansion Bottle Top

  • Cut a 5cm or 2 inch section of straw
  • Sand the 2nd soda bottle lid inside and out
  • Drill a hole through the lid
  • Enlarge the hole with a step drill until the straw can just fit through
  • Fit the straw into the hole
  • Using epoxy adhesive glue the straw into place

Step 8: Gas Storage Pipework Assembly

  • Cut a length of pipe (approx 33cm or 13") to reach the bottom of the gas storage bottle (1st soda bottle)
  • Heat the end of the pipe to make it flexible
  • Fit the pipe to one of the two longer straws inside the gas storage bottle top (1st soda bottle)
  • Cut a 30cm or 12" length of pipe
  • Push one end on to the aquarium tap
  • Push the other end on to the outside of the short straw of the gas storage bottle (1st soda bottle)
  • Cut a 1m or 40" length of pipe
  • Push it on to the other end of the aquarium tap
  • Cut a 40cm or 16inch length of pipe
  • Push it on to the outside of the second long straw on the gas storage bottle top (1st soda bottle)
  • Push the other end of the pipe on to the non return check valve (output end)
  • Cut a 20cm or 8inch length of tube
  • Push it on to the outside of the first long straw (This is the straw that has a pipe connected to the inside.)
  • Push the other end of the tube on to the base of the gas expansion bottle (2nd soda bottle)

Step 9: Mount the Gas Storage and Expansion Bottles

To mount the bottles wrap some steel wire around the neck of each soda bottle to form a hook and attach the soda bottles to a length of wood using screw eyes.

Step 10: Connect the Gas Generation to Gas Storage

Push the output pipe from the gas generation bubbler on to the non return check valve
(input).

Step 11: Set Up the Bubbler and Gas Storage

  • Fill the bubbler with water until it's three quarters full
  • Fill the bottom gas collection bottle until it's almost full
  • Screw on all of the lids tightly

Step 12: Safety

Sodium hydroxide is extremely corrosive and can cause you serious harm so please wear protective gloves, clothes and eyewear.

Hydrogen is highly flammable and when mixed with oxygen becomes explosive, so some care is necessary when you use it. Protective clothing, face shield and ear protectors are a sensible precaution.

Also be careful to expel any air in the tubes when you first use the gas. The first batch of hydrogen is often explosive because it is mixed with this air.

Step 13: Making Hydrogen Gas

You are going to need:

  • 20g sodium hydroxide
  • Aluminium foil
  • Distilled water
  • 40 litre trash bag
  • Add the distilled water into the heatproof flask
  • Slowly add the sodium hydroxide until it is dissolved
  • Add the balls of aluminium foil
  • Replace the rubber stopper

Avoid getting the rubber stopper or the neck of the flask wet, otherwise it can be difficult to keep the stopper in place.

The reaction starts slowly at first with a small but steady stream of hydrogen passing through the bubbler and into the storage bottle. As production increases the hydrogen displaces water from the storage bottle into the bottle above it.

Once the storage bottle is full, the excess hydrogen bubbles up through the top expansion bottle and can be collected by securing a trash bag over the top with an elastic band.

Step 14: Floating Trash Bag

Once the trash bag has inflated you can release it and tie the bottom. A 40 litre trash bag has a fair amount of lift, more than a helium filled balloon.

Fine fishing line is light enough to allow the bag to float to a considerable height.

Step 15: Burning Hydrogen Bubbles

Note that the first time you do this you will get bubbles containing hydrogen mixed with air from the pipes. The bubbles will explode rather than burn.

  • Add some soapy water into a container
  • Put the pipe from the gas storage bottle into the container
  • Open the gas tap

You should now have some hydrogen bubbles that you can ignite with a barbeque lighter.

Step 16: Exploding an Egg

  • Drill a small 2mm hole in the top of an egg
  • Drill a larger 4mm hole in the base of the egg
  • Blow out the contents of the egg into a bowl
  • Wash and dry the egg
  • Place some tape over the hole in the top
  • Push a juice carton straw into the end of the gas pipe
  • Push the straw into the bottom hole in the egg
  • Turn on the gas tap and fill the egg with hydrogen
  • Move the straw around in the egg to help expel air
  • Turn off the gas tap and remove the straw from the egg
  • Place the egg on a holder
  • Remove the tape from the top of the egg
  • Using a barbeque lighter quickly light the top hole of the egg

You should hear a pop when the hydrogen ignites. It's very difficult to see the flame burning and it may take one or two minutes for the egg to explode, usually just when you think it's not going to work!

The flame at the top of the egg burns the hydrogen which is lighter than air, air is drawn up into the bottom hole and when enough oxygen is present the mixture becomes explosive and the egg pops.

Step 17: Exploding Trash Bag

You can explode a tethered hydrogen trash bag by lighting it with a candle or taper tied to the end of a 10ft garden cane. The shock wave from this is quite surprising.


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Comments

author
The Awesome Inventor (author)2016-05-29

Great job! I've got a few questions, can I attach a fuse to the balloons and have the blow up midair? Another question is that would the balloons be able to lift a tiny camera?

-Thanks

author

I am sure you could but I doubt you should!

Yes they could lift a lightweight camera, you just need to size the balloon to lift the payload.

author
ronald.ferreira.39 (author)2016-06-01

this is how they make water for gas in hybrid cars

author

Wow, this is great! Would love to try it out sometime.
Quick question-Can this be used to fill balloons or is the pressure not enough?

author

Thanks. No there is not enough pressure to fill a rubber balloon. Foil balloons work and they stay inflated a lot longer than anything else. The cheapest thinnest trash bags work well.

author
DangerousTim (author)2016-05-16

Really cool! Would love to try that floating trashbag haha

author
techydiy (author)DangerousTim2016-05-17

Thanks

author
wold630 (author)2016-05-13

The pictures of the balloon exploding are super cool! Are there other ideas this could be applied to besides exploding stuff?

author
techydiy (author)wold6302016-05-13

If you can make the hydrogen efficiently then you could run your car from it. The stove in the video worked pretty well, it just needs a lot of hydrogen. I started playing with this to fill balloons for lifting antennas.

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