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What will happen if I throw a normal battery in water?

  1. Dec 22, 2014 #1
    Water is a conductor of electricity. So if i throw a normal clock or tv remote battery in a bucket of water, will it conduct the electricity, allow a short circuit between the + and - ve terminals and cause some minor explosion?
    I wanted to try it but got scared.

    What will happen if i connect two lead wires to the two ends of a battery and then drop the other ends of the wire in a small tub of water? Will it cause some sparking? Will the battery discharge suddenly due to short circuit? Will it damage the battery?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2014 #2
    Wrong. Clear water is a good insulator. You didn't do your homework :-p
     
  4. Dec 22, 2014 #3

    Averagesupernova

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    So go ahead and try this if you think clear water is a good insulator: Fill two clean plastic pails with clear water. Stick 'clean' electrodes in each pail so as to have several hundred volts between each pail. Stick your arms in up to your elbows, one in each pail. When we don't hear back from you we will know the experiment has killed you.
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    NEVER EVER, under any circumstance assume water is an insulator. While it is true pure distilled water is an insulator in is virtually impossible to maintain this purity simply because of contamination from the container or electrodes. Just the minerals on your hand will make the water conductive.
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    As for the battery tossed into the water. A double A cell will have hydrogen and oxygen bubble form at the electrodes.
     
  5. Dec 22, 2014 #4
    Technically purified clear water is a good insulator. Matter of fact it is used in some appliactions as insulator (has high permittivity as well).
    Water from a pipe, sea water and other water salty solutions are something totally different. But he mentioned just "water"! :D
     
  6. Dec 22, 2014 #5

    sophiecentaur

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    In 1957 (+/-) our Physics Master took two nails, connected to the mains and boiled a beaker of tap water infant of us. He then went on to forbid us from trying it ourselves. A really dangerous practice but it demonstrated that the resistance between the nails must have been around 100 Ohm. The water in question was pretty low in Ionic content. It was in Plymouth Devon - where they used to put the mains water directly into naval ships' boilers, reputedly, without any pre-treatment.
    Does anyone else remember Dimmer Bottles (Brine Bottles) for dimming stage lighting?
    That particular master was full of tricks like that. Health and Safety was not a concept in those days. Hell - we were allowed to climb trees in the school grounds.
     
  7. Dec 22, 2014 #6

    Bystander

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    And in terms of answering the OP's question, "used" supposedly discharged batteries can be a hazard in waste collection receptacles if short circuited. The "safe" method for handling such problems in the not too terribly distant past was to dump them into a bucket of water to discharge residual energy slowly.
     
  8. Dec 22, 2014 #7

    davenn

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    exactly, so you shouldn't have assumed pure distilled water ;)
     
  9. Dec 22, 2014 #8
    I didn't assume anything. Chemically, water is just H20 and nothing else. But of course, I was kidding all the way ;)
     
  10. Dec 22, 2014 #9
    When I was a kid I once tied two strings to two paper clips, wet the strings, plugged the paper clips into a wall outlet, and dropped the wet strings into a sink full of water. I then put my finger tip in the water. I felt an uncomfortable buzzing sensation, and pulled my finger out. Glad it was just my finger tip, and not two or a hand.

    Batteries have much less voltage and less current, but no circuit breaker. I think you'd just see some minor bubbling at the electrodes.
     
  11. Dec 22, 2014 #10
    when i read that water is an insulator, my mind went to the question that if water is an insulator then why do they say 'dont use water for electrical fires.' but the discussion reached a conclusion before i could post

    i wanted to connect two lead wires to the ends of a battery and drop the other ends of the wires in a bucket of water.. but i was scared. thought it might damage the battery. i'll put a battery in a bucket of water and see what happens. thanks for the replies:)
     
  12. Dec 23, 2014 #11

    davenn

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    just in case you didn't pick it up and from your comment it seems that way,

    standard every day water out of the tap or the ocean isn't an insulator

    PURE, DISTILLED water is a reasonable insulator :)

    cheers
    Dave
     
  13. Dec 23, 2014 #12
    Back to the topic of batteries, it sounds like a dull way to ruin a battery with the added disadvantage of leaving a future piece of rusted junk for someone to get hurt on.
     
  14. Dec 26, 2014 #13
    Well, first of all, you'd be polluting.

    It depends on what you mean by "water". Pure water is an insulator and will not conduct electricity. However, the water out of your tap is a good conductor because of the minerals and metals dissolved in it.

    Tossing an electronic device into pure water will do nothing to it electrically. However, into regular water, and you will cause a short.

    You won't cause sparking, batteries like the AA or 9V aren't nearly powerful enough to spark. A car battery might, but please don't go throwing those into the water because sulfuric acid + water = not fun.
     
  15. Dec 26, 2014 #14
    Well, first of all, you'd be polluting.

    It depends on what you mean by "water". Pure water is an insulator and will not conduct electricity. However, the water out of your tap is a good conductor because of the minerals and metals dissolved in it.

    Tossing an electronic device into pure water will do nothing to it electrically. However, into regular water, and you will cause a short. It will damage your battery because a shorted battery will get very hot and that will reduce its life and its charge capacity if it's a rechargeable battery, and if you leave a battery shorted for too long there is a chance that it might get hot enough to cause a fire (I'm not sure about exploding). A battery will never discharge immediately, however, because they are only able to provide so much current. A capacitor might (though dipping it in water might also destroy the poor capacitor). It might be more productive to think of the battery as a small generator that uses a chemical reaction to provide a (roughly) constant potential rather than store a charge (as a capacitor would).

    You won't cause sparking, batteries like the AA or 9V aren't nearly powerful enough to spark. A car battery might, but please don't go throwing those into the water because sulfuric acid + water = not fun.
     
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