Hydrogen peroxide experiments

Written by mary margaret peralta
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Hydrogen peroxide experiments
Hydrogen peroxide is easily decomposed into water and oxygen using various catalysts. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Hydrogen peroxide has a similar composition to water, but has an additional oxygen molecule. It has many uses around the home, including as a laundry additive, sanitiser and bath additive. Hydrogen peroxide, in combination with other products, can produce visible chemical reactions or processes. Various experiments involve breaking down hydrogen peroxide into its elements of water and oxygen, using catalysts to quicken the reaction -- while other experiments exhibit the presence of oxygen.

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Hydrogen peroxide and yeast

Hydrogen peroxide is unstable, so it is easily broken down into its separate elements of water and oxygen. In this experiment, yeast is added to hydrogen peroxide to speed up its decomposition process, which is normally slow. This experiment can be conducted at home in a sink. You will need an empty large soft drink bottle, 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide, one packet of active yeast, washing up liquid and warm water. Mix about 113 g (4 oz) of the hydrogen peroxide with 59.1 ml (2 fl oz) of washing up liquid in the soft drink bottle. Set aside and mix the packet of yeast with warm water, letting it sit for about five minutes. Pour the yeast mixture into the soft drink bottle. Oxygen gas is produced and the addition of washing up liquid creates foam.

Hydrogen peroxide and bleach

The mixture of hydrogen peroxide and bleach creates oxygen gas, salt or sodium chloride, and water. The bleach must contain sodium hypochlorite for this experiment to work. The solutions do not need to be concentrated to get a quick reaction. You will need 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide and approximately 6 per cent household bleach, and a beaker. Pour 56.7 g (2 oz) of bleach into the beaker and the equivalent of hydrogen peroxide. Once the two are mixed, the reaction will occur quickly, producing bubbling.

Hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide

With manganese dioxide as a catalyst, hydrogen peroxide will decompose quickly, creating oxygen gas bubbles that may be visible. This experiment should ideally be conducted in a classroom or professional setting. Put a small amount of manganese dioxide into a beaker and add about 29.6ml (1 fl oz). of hydrogen peroxide, 3 per cent solution. Once they mix, an exothermic reaction will take place, where some of the water is turned into steam. The oxygen will be invisible as it is mixed with the steam.

Hydrogen peroxide and burning sulfur

In this experiment, there is no decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, but merely a demonstration that it is composed partially of oxygen. A rose is exposed to burning sulphur and then dipped in hydrogen peroxide. You will need two drinking cups, a rose with a small stem, tape, foil, sulphur and hydrogen peroxide. Tape the rose to the inside of the first cup and place a small pile of sulphur on a piece of aluminium foil. Add flame to the sulphur until it starts to smoulder -- turn the cup with the rose upside down over the burning sulphur. The rose is exposed to sulphur dioxide gas, turning the petals of the rose to white as the gas combines with the oxygen in the coloured part of the rose. Remove the rose from the cup and dip it into a cup filled halfway with hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide provides oxygen to the flower, restoring its colour.

Considerations

Make sure to wear protective eyewear when conducting any of these experiments, whether at home or in a classroom or lab setting. If hydrogen peroxide comes in contact with your eyes, it can result in damage or blindness. It is imperative to seek medical attention if this happens. Make sure to wear an apron and clothing that covers your skin. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website, hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation -- there may also be skin burns with blisters with exposure to concentrated solutions. Flush the skin with water if it is exposed to hydrogen peroxide.

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