The Right Way to Make Hydrogen and Oxygen From Water

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About: I love chemistry, science, DIY, and making stuff.

In this Instructable, I will demonstrate one of the easiest and safest ways to make hydrogen and oxygen gas at home from water and baking soda, a process called Electrolysis. Non-Toxic.

Do not use table salt.

Step 1: Gather Materials...

For this experiment, you will need:

1. Water (Distilled water works best but tap water will work fine)

2. Cup/Jar/Container (Doesn't have to be anything specific, can use any container that will hold water, I used a beaker because that is what I had on hand)

3. Alligator Clips (To connect the electrodes to the battery, for this I made my own with wire and alligator clips, something I will show in the future)

4. Pencil Lead (Pencil Lead from mechanical pencils is easy to get and works good for small experiments, best to use carbon rods if you have them)

5. 9v Battery (For the power source)

6. Baking Soda (Water by itself is really bad at conducting electricity, so you add baking soda to act as an electrolyte and helps to conduct electricity through the water) ( many other tutorials say to use Table Salt - NaCl, this, however, is really bad because it produces extremely toxic Chlorine gas, so please NEVER use salt.

7. Tape (To hold the clips to the container)

Step 2: Add Baking Soda...

After you have filled your container with water, add about half a tablespoon of baking soda to the water and stir until water is clear.

Step 3: Attach Alligator Clips...

Rip/Cut a piece of tape about 2 inches long and cut it down the middle to make two strips.

Tape the alligator clips to the top of the container like in the picture.

MAKE sure the clips are not touching the water or touching each other.

Step 4: Insert Pencil Lead...

Once the alligator clips are secure, carefully insert the pencil lead into them.

Take care not to break the lead.

Step 5: Connect Clips to Battery...

Carefully connect the clips to the positive and negative terminals on the battery.

Take note of which clip is connected to the positive and negative.

If you have black and red clips/wire, black is negative and red is positive.

Step 6: Start Making H2 and O2!...

As soon as you connect the clips to the battery, you will immediately get bubbling to start on the pencil lead.

Oxygen will bubble from the electrode that is connected to the positive battery terminal.

Hydrogen will bubble from the negative.

Congrats, you have split the water molecule - H2O into H2 and O2 gas! with a bit of carbon dioxide from the baking soda.

This setup is more for viewing purposes and would be extremely hard to collect the gas like this. When you are done with the water you can pour it down the drain.

Step 7: If You Have Carbon Rods...

If you have carbon/graphite rods, this will work the same and you will get much bigger bubbles.

Have fun and remember, safety first!

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    7 Discussions

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    stratus-9

    Tip 5 weeks ago

    Keep positive. . Thanx

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    AussieAlf

    3 months ago on Step 5

    Hi Logan,
    Red is positive and black is negative - typo in step 5? Although it doesn't really matter in your experiment here.
    You could invert bottles full of water over each electrode if you wanted to capture the gases i guess.
    Cheers

    3 replies
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    LoganS61AussieAlf

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks for the feedback. I will change step 5. Also, I might make an intructable about collecting the gasses later in the future. There are better ways to make H2 and O2, like for oxygen you could just add Manganese dioxide to hydrogen peroxide.

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    AussieAlfLoganS61

    Reply 3 months ago

    Hi Logan,

    I used to make hydrogen balloons as a kid with drain cleaner (caustic soda - sodium hydroxide) and aluminium foil in a bottle with a balloon over the top. Both were readily available back in those days,

    Cheers,

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    LoganS61AussieAlf

    Reply 3 months ago

    Hey, I’ve done that before too. I was actually planning on making an instructable on it one I get some sodium hydroxide lol.

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    SHOE0007

    3 months ago

    Cool def try inverted bottles to catch the gas.

    1 reply
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    LoganS61SHOE0007

    Reply 3 months ago

    Definitely an idea, seems a bit impractical to me though. I might build a better way...