Iron doesn't dissolve readily in water, although it will definitely rust more rapidly (as you've probably noticed from experience). Hydrochloric acid, however, can dissolve iron, and a more concentrated solution will dissolve it more rapidly. This simple experiment makes a great way to study reaction kinetics, but it does pose some possible hazards. First of all, it releases highly flammable hydrogen gas, so it should be performed under a fume hood. Moreover, hydrochloric acid is also a hazardous chemical if misused; it's especially important to avoid spilling it on skin or eyes. With these cautions in mind, you can dissolve iron using hydrochloric acid.
Things You'll Need
- Lab coat
- Iron nail
- 1 molar hydrochloric acid
- Fume hood
- Graduated cylinder
Don your safety equipment, including goggles, gloves and coat. Make sure you have closed-toed shoes on.
Place the iron nail in the beaker. It's preferable to use a nail short enough so it will fit at the bottom of the beaker, since that way you can submerge it completely in the HCl.
Place the beaker and hydrochloric acid in the fume hood, together with your graduated cylinder. Make sure it is switched on and running properly (consult the manufacturer's instructions for specifics).
Measure out 100 mL of the 1 molar HCl using your graduated cylinder and pour it over the iron nail.
- Frostburg College Chemistry: Why Won't Iron Dissolve as Easily in HNO3 as it Does in HCL?
- Journal of Chemical Education: Dissolving Iron Nails: A Kinetics Experiment
- "Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight"; Peter Atkins, et al.; 2008
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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