The boys were supposed to go out yesterday night but the person who was supposed to take them out came down with the flu. Oh dear! Time for Plan B. I pulled out the old chemistry kit. We’ve had it for about two years I think but the boys had forgotten all about it so it was suddenly new again. I thought that we might be able to go out and get all those necessary ingredients you are supposed to have but for some reason we don’t. D-11 pulled off the miraculous finding all that we needed to do electroplating just by rooting around the house. Yesterday they poured the last of the vinegar (it’s amazing to me how much vinegar is used in this house in the name of science!) into the test tube and dropped a zinc strip into it. The zinc was supposed to dissolve into the solution over night. It did! This morning an eager D-11 and P-9 took the zinc strip out and got the “alligator clip do-hicky” set up. They successfully connected the battery to the correct clips (one had to be negative and the other positive) and then clamped a penny to the negative clip and the zinc strip to the positive clip. Some sugar and magnesium sulfate (a.k.a Epsom salts) had to be dissolved into the vinegar-zinc solution. When they put the penny and the zinc strip into the solution (still attatched to the battery) we got bubbles! I love it when what is supposed to happen actually does happen. We checked on the penny after morning devotions and it had turned grey just like it was supposed to. It had been electroplated with zinc. The handy dandy book that came with the kit told us all about what actually happened. We learned that the concoction the boys made in the test tube is an electolyte or in normal everyday English a chemical that is a good conductor of electricity. The bubbles we saw were part of a process called hydrolysis. The bubbles were actually escaping hydrogen gas molecules. Neat! Electroplating happens because positive and negative ions are attracted to each other.
Apparently, electroplating is the way baby shoes get bronzed. Wow! I never really thought about that before. I don’t think that I will look at things that are gold, silver or bronze plated in quite the same way any more.
Since today’s experiment was such a success, I think that we will try the “Packing Peanut Puzzle” tomorrow. It’s a lesson on what packing material is good for the environment and what isn’t so good. Should be interesting (and it doesn’t even involve vinegar.)