Electrolysis of Iron Oxide

In summary, the individual attempted to create iron oxide through electrolysis using a car battery charger, nails, and a salt solution. The initial reaction appeared to be going well, but after 15 minutes, the solution turned clear and the nails were fully oxidized. The individual theorized that the result was a mix of iron hydroxide and electrolyzed chlorine gas. However, it was later discovered that the method used was not ideal and using washing soda as an electrolyte would yield better results. Additionally, a repeat experiment resulted in more traditional results with both nails appearing to have a black coating of ferrous oxide. The final
  • #1
13
0
I for inquisitional purposes only recently attempted electrolysis of Iron to create Iron oxide. I used a car battery charger (12v, 2.7A) and two large (assumed iron) nails; a de-ionized water solution (200ml) with approx. 15g sea salt (claimed 99.995%).
After starting the reaction (outside with respiration), it appeared to be going well; however as time wore on (approx 15minutes), the solution turned clear, with large bubbles containing all the solutions previous red particulates.
Inquisitive, I watched it from afar, and saw it transition from the following colours: [clear, green, blue, grey]. I saw it stay this grey colour for the rest of its duration with large particles floating around, the froth on top had now grown to 2cm high, and was largely green and red (appeared as fine particles coating the bubbles).

To say the least, it looked disgusting. However I took my precautions with it, seeing as it was an unknown and without further investigation diluted and disposed of it. The submerged sections of the nails were a dark black and appeared to be what may have been solid iron; after 3 minutes however this dark black section became fully oxidized (rusted).

After seeing all these estranged results, it appeared that things had not gone to plan. :p
I theorized it to be a mix of Iron Hydroxide after using the search engine, (and turning up this which had some resemblance: http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms/Chem_FeOH.jpg - however less thick); and it appeared to be in too great a volume to be the zinc protective coatings that was on either nails.
And my theory for the green coloured bubbles/froth I could only see as electrolyzed chlorine gas that had not escaped.

Is anyone able to shed some light on these results, and perhaps confirm / destroy my theory's as what it may have been.
P.S: This is not for anything specific, I already have large amounts of FeO in storage, it was purely inquisitorial as stated above. (received some flak on another forum).
 
Chemistry news on Phys.org
  • #2
Funny you should mention it - I was just doing this yesterday, and just happened upon PF (for a totally different reason) today.

First of all -- seems someone's already spanked you, assuming you're making thermite. (A) I'm not going to (assume OR spank) but: (B) for anyone who's THINKING of doing it, please, PLEASE watch a bunch of YouTube videos first (including the guy who accidentally had his tiny pile of lit thermite spark off his full container, a few feet away, on his back porch). Thermite will melt through concrete. It gives off WHITE-hot molten iron.

I've done aluminum casting, and a 500g crucible of molten aluminum is hard to be NEAR, wearing welding gloves and a thick apron. And white-hot iron is A LOT hotter. You do NOT want to be ANYWHERE near a thermite reaction, even a little one. Think of it as an EXPLOSIVE, not just "powder that burns a lot". You will probably damage everything within at least 20 feet, including you. Again, it will MELT THROUGH concrete - if you're lucky. (Concrete has water trapped in it - so it'll possibly EXPLODE -- showering 2,500° molten iron into the air.)

That said - electrolysis of iron isn't a great way to go -- and your method has some drawbacks anyway. You don't want to use sea salt - you're making hydrogen and chlorine gas, and sodium hydroxide (lye). And - you've got galvanized nails - the zinc is going to be doing a bunch of other stuff - maybe Zn(OH)2? Also - you didn't mention polarity, as in, what happened at the cathode vs anode nail?

When I do this, it's to DE-rust tools. You hook the red (positive) to a sacrificial bit of iron (I use 'steel' wool), and the black (negative) to the object to be de-rusted. H2 comes off the anode (black); O2 off the cathode. The rust (ferric oxide) drops off the tool, leaving behind a black scale (which I seem to recall is ferrous oxide). The sacrificial cathode just rusts. And - a far better electrolyte is washing soda (sodium carbonate) - Arm & Hammer makes it, not too hard to find if you look around at drugstores and bigger groceries. Finally - a battery charger works much better than a battery. ;-)

There's an Instructable on it, and an article in the latest MAKE magazine (vol 17) on the technique.

That all said - if you want to produce rust - buy a sack of #0000 steel wool. Light it with a match. (Remove sack first.) Filter through a coffee filter w/ distilled water.

(Aluminum powder? Now that's harder. >;-)
 
  • #3
corradini said:
That said - electrolysis of iron isn't a great way to go -- and your method has some drawbacks anyway. You don't want to use sea salt - you're making hydrogen and chlorine gas, and sodium hydroxide (lye). And - you've got galvanized nails - the zinc is going to be doing a bunch of other stuff - maybe Zn(OH)2? Also - you didn't mention polarity, as in, what happened at the cathode vs anode nail?

Sorry, I forgot these details. And yes electrolysis was not a great way to go. I knew there would be some drawbacks with the galvanization. Would the most 'appropriate' reaction be:

2NaCl(aq) + 3Fe(s) + 3H2O(l) > 2NaOH + H2(g) + 2Fe(OH)2(aq) + Cl2(g) + FeO(aq)

Note: I am very tired when I wrote this up, it appears to be correctly balanced, but as far as theory goes, it could be all wrong.

I unfortunately cannot give results for the anode v cathode, as it was so long ago now, however a recent repeat of the experiment gave more 'traditional' or at least less complicated results. Anode v cathode in this result appeared indifferent by visual note as both nails appeared to have
corradini said:
...a black [coating]... ferrous oxide...
after removal from the experiment; and large amounts of gases forming on the surface around the nail during the experiment.
A filtered result of the solution aftermath gave Ferric Oxide (red iron oxide).

This may have been due to the larger container in which it was completed in (larger surface area, less chance of bubbles) and the fact I used the same nails from the previous experiment (they may have lost all of their galvanized protective layer).

corradini said:
And - a far better electrolyte is washing soda (sodium carbonate) - Arm & Hammer makes it, not too hard to find if you look around at drugstores and bigger groceries.
Are you referring to Na2CO3 or NaHCO3, or would there be no distinguishable difference.

corradini said:
Finally - a battery charger works much better than a battery. ;-)
rommel said:
I used a car battery charger (12v, 2.7A)

Or were you referring to something else?

I may be doing this experiment again soon, however with more appropriate recordings, and scientific method (last one was a bit scruffy). I also may conduct a few tests to check the presence of what else may be laying around in solution after ward's.

Other replies from different forums presumed these possibles of trace compounds:
KoMoD0 said:
Chlorine
Hydrogen
Sodium hypochlorite
Sodium hydroxide
Sodium chlorate
Iron hydroxide
Iron oxide(s)

Take your pick
 
  • #4
corradini said:
...H2 comes off the anode (black); O2 off the cathode.

"Anode" refers to a positive potential, whereas "cathode" refers to a negative potential, in which case, your statement is reversed for the gases that are produced per the polarities you mentioned via anode and cathode. Electrolysis typically yields hydrogen from the negative potential and oxygen from the positive potential.

On several occasions via electrolysis, I’ve liberated full-sized plastic trash bags full of hydrogen and the negative terminal absolutely produces the hydrogen gas, which was verified when I released them and they quickly ascended up into the atmosphere.
 

What is electrolysis of iron oxide?

Electrolysis of iron oxide is a chemical process in which an electric current is used to decompose iron oxide (FeO) into its constituent elements of iron and oxygen.

What are the products of electrolysis of iron oxide?

The products of electrolysis of iron oxide are solid iron and gaseous oxygen.

What is the purpose of electrolysis of iron oxide?

The purpose of electrolysis of iron oxide is to extract pure iron from iron oxide, which is commonly found in rust or iron ore.

What is the role of the electrolyte in electrolysis of iron oxide?

The electrolyte in electrolysis of iron oxide serves as a conductor for the electric current and also helps in the separation of the iron and oxygen ions.

What are some practical applications of electrolysis of iron oxide?

Electrolysis of iron oxide is commonly used in the production of iron and steel, as well as in the purification of iron for industrial purposes. It is also used in the production of hydrogen gas and in the manufacturing of batteries.

Suggested for: Electrolysis of Iron Oxide

Replies
5
Views
954
Replies
5
Views
861
Replies
2
Views
995
Replies
3
Views
997
Replies
8
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
2K
Back
Top