Demonstrating Dehydration Using Sugar (Sugar Snake)

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Introduction: Demonstrating Dehydration Using Sugar (Sugar Snake)

Sugar (a carbohydrate) is dehydrated with concentrated sulfuric acid. Since a carbohydrate was once considered just hydrated carbon, if you remove the water, carbon would be left over. The acid rips the water out of the sugar and the heat generated by this reaction causes the water to turn to steam. A black mass of carbon is produced.

1. Place the sugar into the beaker 2.
2. Add the sulphuric acid to the beaker
3. Stir it briefly.
4. Wash the carbon column in excess water to dilute and wash away the acid.


The sucrose turns yellow and then red brown. After about one and a half minute the mixture changes color to black and a spongy mass of carbon grows well above the top of the cylinder. The formation of a carbon column is accompanied by the release of heat and evolution of vapor.

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    27 Discussions

    If that would not be that hot, you could hold it behind you and people infront of you would think you make a poopoo^^

    Technically, i think if it is carbon 60 or something, its radioactive. Also know as the buckyball.

    1 reply

    Its the number of neutrons in the atom (isotope) that makes somthing radioactive, not the number of atoms in a molecule (allotrope)
    C60 is Buckminster fullerine though :D ("buck ball")
    so unless you use C16 or somthing of the like this wouldnt be radioactive.

    question-were would one get sulphuric acid (cose i dont have a science lab and i live in australia so i dont have all the types of shops u have in the U.S.).

    After rinsing off the carbon, how pure is the result? Could the result be used as "activated charcoal" in a filter?

    1 reply

    No. They sell these as fireworks ( wouldnt call them firworks) and when you burn them what is left is either super light weigh or ash

    I have tried this experiment several times. I never get a reaction. I put a small beaker of sugar and add 12 molar sulfuric acid... i get nothing...

    2 replies

    I found out the problem. Apparently the 12 molar was not 12 molar sulfuric acid. Once I got a fresh batch it reacted quickly with just regular table sugar. I tried one with a little water added and then one with dry sugar. The one with water added produced a tar-like carbon which made clean up more difficult. If you use dry sugar then when the beaker is cooled it is very easy to remove the carbon and clean the glass. BTW... YES these fumes ARE nasty. They smell terrible. I suggest doing this under a fume hood.

    what happens after its finished? can you take it out of the beaker and keep if as a memento for the day you made crap in school? hang it up on a wall or a nice little ornament in the bathroom

    is it seriously pure carbon left over? if so, couldnt you make Super-Carbon steel if you mix a tonne of that stuff into melted steel?

    1 reply