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The causes of rusting Class practical In this class experiment students put iron nails in
The causes of rusting Class practical In this class experiment students put iron nails in

The causes of rusting

Class practical In this class experiment students put iron nails in various conditions including wet, dry, air-free and salty to find out what causes iron to rust.

Lesson organisation This experiment will need to be set up in one lesson and then left for more than 3 days before being re-examined. It could be left set up for longer if necessary.

Apparatus

Chemicals

 

Per pair or group of students:

nails, 4

 

Anhydrous

granules

Eye protection Test-tubes, 4 Test-tube rack Rubber bung to fit test tube Cotton wool Forceps Pen or other means of spanling test tubes

(IRRITANT) Students with sensitive skin should be offered gloves.

Cooking oil Deionised water

 

Boiled deionised water (15 min boil) (Note 1)

(table salt)

Refer to Health & Safety and Technical notes

section below for additional information.

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Wear eye protection.

Anydrous calcium chloride, CaCl 2 (s), (IRRITANT) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.

Sodium chloride, NaCl(s) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.

1 It is best if the deionised water is boiled eg in a kettle, as close to the start of the lesson as possible and supplied warm to the students. They could boil it themselves for 15 minutes in a beaker on a Bunsen burner, but whether this is advisable will depend on the class.

Procedure

a Label the test tubes 1-4.

b About ¼ fill tube 1 with deionised water and add a nail.

c About ¼ fill tube 2 with boiled deionised water and add a nail. Carefully pour a little oil over the surface to prevent air from reaching the water.

d Mix some salt with some deionised water to make a solution. About ¼ fill tube 3 with this mixture and add a nail.

e Put a nail into tube 4 and add about 2 cm depth of anhydrous calcium chloride granules. These absorb water. Put a bung in this tube to prevent any further water from getting in.

in this tube to prevent any further water from getting in. f Leave for at least

f Leave for at least 3 days and then note any changes in appearance of the nails.

Teaching notes You could ask students to tabulate which conditions are present or absent in each of the tubes.

Tube 1 – water and air

Tube 2 – water but no air (it is removed during boiling and the oil prevents any extra from dissolving in the water and

reaching the nail)

Tube 3 – water, air and salt

Tube 4 – air, no water (the calcium chloride removes the water from the air and the bung prevents any extra from entering.)

They should see that the nails in tubes 2 and 4 do not rust. The nail in tube 3 rusts the most. From this they should be able to conclude that water and air (actually oxygen in the air) are essential for rusting. Salt can increase the rate of rusting. This can lead to a discussion about rust protection and methods which can be used to keep air and water away from the iron such as paint, grease and plastic coating.

Very simply, rusting is the reaction of iron with oxygen – but water is an important part of the process too. For fuller details of the reactions, see the website below.

Health & Safety checked, September 2014

Credits This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

© Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry

Page last updated October 2015