Experiment: Saltwater rust

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Using a few materials from around the house, you can see the effect that saltwater rust will have on New York City's subway system after superstorm Sandy.

Materials

* Two transparent cups

* Warm water

* Salt

* Two white plates

* Two steel-wool pads

Instructions

STEP 1: Fill each cup 3/4 of the way with warm water. Mix three tablespoons of salt into one of the cups of warm water. Label the cup "saltwater."

STEP 2: Place one of the steel-wool pads into the cup of saltwater and one of the steel-wool pads into the cup of water without salt.

STEP 3: After five minutes place the steel-wool pad in the saltwater onto a white plate and the steel-wool pad in the water without the salt onto the other white plate. Wait a few days and observe.

Explanation

After a few days the steel-wool pad in the saltwater will have more rust. The salt makes the water a better conductor. That means more electricity can pass through, which produces more oxygen. The more oxygen present the more rust forms.

Jason Lindsey is a science outreach educator with Hooked on Science. Check out his website www.hookedonscience.org for webcasts and experiments.

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