Zinc sulphate is a compound with the molecular formula ZnSO4. It's a crystalline white solid that dissolves readily in water and is commonly used in the manufacture of rayon and fertilisers. At home, you can also use it to make a simple battery. In industry, zinc sulphate is typically produced using zinc and sulphuric acid. At home, however, it's simpler and safer to prepare it with zinc and copper sulphate. You can buy copper sulphate at many DIY shops, while zinc is available online from some scientific supply companies.
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Things you need
- Zinc plates
- Copper sulphate crystals
- Two glass beakers or jars
- Paper filter(coffee filter or similar device)
- Scale or other measuring device
Measure out some of the copper sulphate. How much you'll need depends on how much zinc sulphate you want to make. For an initial experiment, 5 to 10 grams is probably best.
Place the copper sulphate in one of the beakers or jars and add enough water to dissolve it completely. The solution will typically be blue in colour.
Add one or more of the zinc plates to the solution. Copper sulphate is typically sold in pentahydrate form, which means that for every 3.82 g of copper sulphate you added, you only need 1 g of zinc for a complete reaction. It's preferable to have more zinc than you need, however, to ensure the reaction is complete, so there's no need to measure the zinc for this part.
Watch to see copper metal begin to precipitate out of the solution. Be careful, as this reaction releases heat and may even make the beaker too warm to hold. The zinc plate/rod will be eaten away by the solution and the blue colour of the solution will slowly fade as the reaction progresses.
Pour the solution through a paper filter into another jar once it has lost its colour and become transparent and has cooled down. The paper filter will strain out the metal copper that precipitated from the solution, so the remaining solution should be mostly zinc sulphate in water. Leave the jar or beaker undisturbed for a couple of days, and as the water evaporates it will leave behind solid zinc sulphate in its wake.
Tips and warnings
- Copper sulphate is an eye, nose and throat irritant that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea if ingested; if eaten in large quantities, it may have even more severe effects. It should always be kept away from children.
- Zinc sulphate can cause irritation or corrosion. It should not be released into the environment.
- Always be careful to perform experiments in a controlled environment; never lean over beakers or glasses while adding or mixing chemicals and wear safety glasses whenever appropriate.
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