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Rusting Nails student experiment and research

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Q. HELP!

We are 6th graders doing a science fair project, on rusting nails. There isn't much research on the subject. We used water & pickle juice in one container, and in the other we used vinegar & water. If you have any info please tell us!

Thank-you!

Stacey & Kathy deleted
- Athens, Georgia


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A. Hi, girls. Even though you're only in 6th grade, I think the point of your effort is to gain practice on how to proceed with such projects.

The first step is to make a lab book. This can be an inexpensive composition book =>
but preferably the pages don't rip out. Then you number the pages. Now write everything you do in this one book, in ink, accurately recording everything you did and saw, and periodically writing the date and time.

So what kind of nails did you use? How much water? What did you see? Did both nails rust, neither rust, or did one set rust faster? Did any sediment accumulate in either jar? Did the color of the solution turn rusty or otherwise change?

You never erase because these are your observations. Your interpretation of what they mean may change as you study more and continue the experiment, but nothing can ever change what you observed. If you wrote something that you decide should not have been written because it's not an observation, you strike it through once, to show that it is to be ignored, but you leave it legible because lab results must never be altered.

Your town or county library has books on corrosion and I think the librarian would be happy to help you find something age-appropriate. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Earth Science for Every Kid


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Q. I'm doing my project and I'm testing rust in nails. I would like to find out where nails would rust faster pure water or in saltwater? and will nails rust in vinegar?

Annadeleted
- Makati, Philippines


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A. Anna, what is pure water. If it is tap water, it has to have something else in it or the seawater would rust it faster. If you are using DI water, it would gradually eat some of the zinc off of the nail. If you are using zinc plated nails, vinegar should be faster as it will eat some of the zinc off. You also have to be extremely careful to treat all of the nails exactly the same way.

For tap water, carbon dioxide will react with the water to for a weak acid. Boil it first and the rate of acid formation will go way down, especially if you cover the container. Also the nails can not touch each other and really should be one to a container. They should be in a test tube or similar so they do not lay on the bottom. For pure water, I would use a distilled water that has not been ozone treated if you can get it. Boil this also. Temperatures of each tube must be identical. A water bath works well for this where at least half of the tube is submerged.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

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Q. Where will a nail partially submerged in water rust the most?

Joannadeleted
- Cranbury, New Jersey



A. My hypothesis is that it will rust most at the waterline. Is that your hypothesis as well, Joanna? What experimental procedure are you going to do to try to support your hypothesis?

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. There is not a lot of research over rusting nails. This is my question: which will the nails rust faster in, rubbing alcohol or Dr.Pepper?

Robbiedeleted
- Bentonville, Illinois


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A. Make a lab book as previously described, Robbie, then put a nail in a container of each and see what you find! Do the experiment first and record your results. To proceed otherwise can lead a student to practice what we call "junk science".

Did you request assistance of the librarian before you decided there is not a lot of research? Your librarian will probably be happy to find an appropriate book for you. Good luck.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Kids Guide to Research


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A. Rusting nails have been widely discussed on this website. May I suggest anyone following this thread for information should use the built-in search engine [top left corner of page] and FAQ's to get their answers. Alternatively, perhaps the students should do the experiments before going onto the Internet to get the answers, or is that too difficult and old fashioned!

Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


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A. I personally like the question regarding Dr Pepper on nails. I recently did a consulting report determining that discoloration of copper plated parts was due to the spilling of Dr Pepper into a tote of plated parts! Funny things do happen and no one guesses. But seriously, the idea of using the web for research for school science projects is for the student to locate the information that is available and decide which is pertinent. Asking a question and expecting the answer is just like asking your parents to do your homework!

Gene Packman
process supplier - Great Neck, New York

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Q. How would I measure the rust on iron nails with different coatings on them?

Kristen deleted
- Manalapan, New Jersey



A. Hello, Kristen. We get questions from first graders and from high school seniors, and they have to be answered differently depending on what grade you are in . . .

If you are in high school you should probably weigh the nail with an analytical balance before the experiment, and rub all the rust off after the experiment, and express the rusting in terms of weight loss. If you have the money and the interest, inexpensive electronic pocket scales are available if the school's balance isn't readily available.

If you are in a younger grade you can wipe the rust onto a coffee filter and pour the rusty water through the filter to capture the rest of the rust for a good visual indication of the amount of rust.

Good luck.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

"Hands-on" learning is fun, maybe try a precision scale? . . .

 

Electronic scale


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Q. I am concluding a 2 week science experiment on rust and corrosion of nails. One was in bleach water and one in regular tap water. The bleach water one really corroded a lot and the other just put a rust color in the water? Why would bleach do that?

Nathan Sdeleted
- Garland, Texas


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A. Numerous reasons. A few are: The bleach cleaned the surface. Bleach is sodium hypochlorite. This can break down into hypochlorous acid, free chlorine and ?. This will activate the nail surface as well as adding conductivity to the water.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

 

A. I agree with Mr. Watts, Nathan, and would also add that bleach is a powerful oxidizing agent, (which is why it is a good disinfectant and color-remover). Since rust is iron oxide, it makes sense that a powerful oxidizing agent would help turn iron into iron oxide.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. Hey, I am doing sort of the same assignment. Which liquids 1-5 out of these would attract more rust to an iron nail? 1. Oil 2. Water 3. Salt Water 4. Sugar Water 5. Cold Boiled Water

Mitch Wdeleted
- Sydney, NSW, Australia


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Q. I'm doing a science project on how acid rain effects nail and would like to know if it does effect the nail. I am also wondering if rust forms on the nail how does it effect the durability.

Ashleydeleted
- Canada


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A. Mitch: I don't think "attract" is quite the right word in that context. Maybe you mean "cause"? Anyway, what did you see when you did the experiment? From that, maybe we can figure out what it taught you?

Ashley: It is predicted that within 3 years acid rain will be so bad that all nails will rust away; the shingles will blow off of all the houses; and no one will be able to sleep on rainy nights. Seriously, "acid rain" is a subtle effect which reportedly can have a serious impact on unbuffered high mountain lakes, but probably has little measurable effect on roofing nails.

If a little "rust forms on a nail" it has little effect. But think of where the rust came from (the strong steel plus oxygen was turned to powdery rust) and what will happen if something continues to rust indefinitely. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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For all you rusty nail people, perhaps if you search under corrosion on the internet you will find basic information on what you are looking for namely explaining your results; you have done the experiments haven't you ?

As a pointer, aqueous corrosion is an electrochemical process incorporating oxidation and reduction in the presence of an electrolyte. Areas on your nails become cathodic and anodic, the anodic areas "give" up electrons and the metal will slowly dissolve in this area. As your nail is essentially a short circuited cell, the cathodic areas are the site of the accompanying reduction reaction forming "rust".You can look up the chemical formulas in any basic chemistry textbook, though depending on your age I don't know whether your teachers want to you get into that or are just trying to get you to set up an experiment observe the results and write it up. Some of the things that can effect the reaction rate (corrosion rate) are electrolyte concentration (conductivity) and pH, temperature, oxidizing power.

Have any of you noticed what if anything happens to the sharp point on the nail during your experiment, that's a whole new can of worms for you to tussle with.

Happy homework,

Richard Guise
- Lowestoft, U.K.


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Q. I am a 4th grader doing a school experiment on rust. I put an iron nail in coke, sprite, diet coke and spring water. It only rusted in the water. It has been 1 week with no change except the nail keeps rusting more in water and no where else. Why?

Grahamdeleted
- Raleigh, North Carolina


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Q. Why does plain tap water rust nails? What causes the rust to form? I need to know this for my science fair project on how to make nails rust proof.

Nicoledeleted
- Ontario, Canada


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A. Graham: this may not be a great experiment for 4th graders because the results you see are probably misleading. Coke is good at dissolving rust. My guess is the nail is corroding faster in the Coke than in spring water, but the Coke is dissolving the rust as fast as it forms. If you were in high school and doing this experiment, you could weigh the nail on an analytical balance before and after the test and measure the weight loss. Then your conclusion might be different. But just accurately record your observations in your lab book and you will have learned a lot.

Nicole: plain water contains dissolved oxygen that will combine with the iron in the nail to form iron oxide, also called rust, and a very small amount of heat. Almost all metals (except gold and a couple of other precious metals) will corrode in this fashion, combining with oxygen and forming an oxide of the metal in question. Actually, the corroded state is more stable (a lower energy state) than the metallic state--which is why you don't see most metals appear in metallic form in nature.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

(for Kindle)
Unforgettable Experiments
that make Science Fun


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Q. Hi,

I'm in 6th grade. I'm doing a science project for open house. I really need to hurry and I'm VERY bad at Science. So I need your help very bad! Well I'm trying to rust metal the fastest way I can. I need to know if metal will rust faster in hot salt water or cold salt water. The problem is I can't get the metal to rust. I put a nail in cold salt water and one in hot, added a lot of salt, and nothing happen. I'm not sure what to do. I don't really know if the nail is pure metal or not. So can you help me PLEASE!

Rachel Ldeleted
- Monroe City, Missouri


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A. Rachel, the nail will not rust instantly. Nails wouldn't be very useful if they did, would they? So you need to allow perhaps a week for this experiment. But if you've been at it for several days with no rust, your nail is probably galvanized; you need plain steel or iron.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. My project is "what soda will remove rust off a nail best?" I need info. on it!

Tashadeleted
- Missouri


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A. Tasha, this is not a subject that the industrial world is going to report on. We use nasty stuff for economical rust removal. Since this is probably an experiment, buy six cans of assorted sodas and experiment with it. What I fail to understand is how you will know that 6 rusted nails have the exact same amount of rust. It will very likely not remove all of the rust, so how are you going to tell which one removed the most? How do you know that the colas will not cause rust after a few days? Teachers that have experiments like this are only looking for the crudest evaluations or they should provide experimental design and equipment that is adequate for the analysis. Send me your teachers email address. I would like to get their side of this story.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


sidebar +++

James: While 2nd-graders doing experiments with soda is okay, chemophobia is profound today, and proper reagents are gone from many high schools, with students are trying to do their "chemistry" course with ludicrous "reagents" like Dr. Pepper, flavored vinegar, and taco sauce. They can't get repeatable results, but even if they could, what chemistry can possibly be learned from nonsense like Krispy Kreme Donut Glaze rusting a nail faster or slower than Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream? The waste of children's minds is terrible, but paranoia is a more powerful force than concern about poor science education, so whatcha gonna do?

My suggestion is that the kids try to learn what they can: experimental methodology like keeping a lab book, properly recording observations, forming testable hypotheses, and the difference between science and "junk science" :-)

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Challenging Environmental
Mythology:Wrestling Zeus


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Q. I am helping my brother make a research project and I just want to know what creates rust faster? metal, copper or iron? Please answer as soon as possible.

Leonardodeleted
- San Diego, California


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A. The purpose of a research project is to find something out. If you already know the answer it is NOT research. I think you need to think a bit about the problem; you mention metal, copper and iron. Firstly, what do you mean by metal - it covers a multitude of sins. Secondly, what is rust (Clue - we generally call "rust" a brown material found on iron and steel. It contains a mixture of the metal oxide and hydroxide). Thirdly, what makes things rust? Once you have answered the last point, get some "metal", copper and iron and put them in conditions that will make them "rust".....Now THAT'S research.

Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


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I'm 13 and in the 7th grade. I did a science fair project on " which type of water makes nails rust the most" The three types of water I did was sugar, salt, and tap. My results were tap water made a 3 inch finish nail rust the best. I need a science reason why? So could you please help me?

Emilydeleted
- Detroit, Michigan


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Hi,

I want to know why the color of Seven Up changes as we put a nail in it? In which liquid salt water, water, Pepsi, root beer, seven up, punchy lemonade and that's it in which one of these does a nail rust faster and why? Thank you for all your help. It is actually a project I received but unfortunately was unsuccessful. Once again thank u.

Nur Mdeleted
- Sedona, Arizona


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Hi everyone!

I'm doing a project on 'what will rust an iron nail faster, bleach, vinegar, or water?' and I've found all my research and everything except how long it takes? I'm doing the experiment now, but I'm getting really flustered and impatient, so could someone who already knows how long it takes please reply asap!

p.s. I'm thinking it'll take a day or two, but I'm not sure

Grace Mdeleted
student - Big Bear, California


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I am in the 10th grade. I have done my experiment and done research as well. This is my paper....please tell me if anything is wrong with it... Am I missing anything vital?... It can also help those who have questions on my topic...Please help me...i want to make sure that my paper is O.K.

Nail Corrosion
I. Introduction

Corrosion and rust is one of the problems that cost industries million of dollars every year. To prevent this costly dilemma companies must understand this natural process and how to impede it. To save money companies refrain from using pure metals. In fact there are not many metals found in their pure state one example of a pure metal would be gold. Most metals are mined as ores. Ores are oxides. (Hapeman.) When pulling the oxygen out of the ore, by applying plenty of energy and heat, it creates a pure metal. For example if heat and energy are applied to an iron ore or iron oxide it become iron. This chemical reaction is called reduction. Reduction is when a substance gains and electron. When a substance loses an electron this is called oxidation. When a metal, specifically iron, is able to recombine with oxygen it becomes an iron oxide or iron ore once again. When iron oxidizes, it corrodes in to the familiar brownish red color called rust. (Hapeman-) To simplify this, corrosion is an iron or metal attempting to return to into its original or natural sate. (Davis-) Most companies use iron to build bridges, building etc. Different types of iron they may use include, cast iron or wrought, and pig iron. Cast iron an iron alloy that contains 2-4% carbon, and 1-3% silicon. Wrought iron is practically a pure metal, which can resist corrosion more so than cast iron. Pig iron contains 93% iron and 3-4% carbon and a few other elements. (Knapp----)

Do nails rust differently in different types of liquids? How effective are coatings of glue and paint on nails against rust? The hypothesis is: If nails are put into water, then it will rust more so than if they are placed into vinegar. If a coating of nail polish or glue is applied to the nails then the nails will not rust as much as the nails without a protective coating. This hypothesis was stated because water and oxygen are needed for oxidation, oxidation is needed for corrosion or rust to begin. A coating of glue and nail polish can prevent the water from reaching the iron. To measure the amount of rust, each nail will be rated on the level of corrosion. The controls of the experiment are the nails without coating in water and vinegar. The independent variable is the coating on the nails. The dependent variable is how much rust is on the nails. The variables are the types of coatings, and the types of liquids. The constants of the experiment are the amount of nails in! each container, temperature, the amount of rust, the size of the containers, and the amount of time the nails stay in the containers.

II. Materials and Methods

Materials needed to use in this experiment are the following: 6 plastic containers, 24 nails, 100 ml of water in each container, 100 ml in each container, nail polish, and industrial strength glue. To conduct this experiment, paint four layers of nail polish on four nails. Then do the same on the next four nails with the industrial strength glue. Let all eight nails dry for five hours. Fill two containers with vinegar and two containers with water. Place two of the same nails in each container (ex. two nails with nail polish are in water and two nails with nail polish are in vinegar). The last two containers (one with vinegar one with water) are the controls; place two nails that do no have coatings on them in each container. This experiment was repeated in the same manner on a later date. In each trial the nails stayed in the containers for two weeks. III. Data Collection & Analysis

The independent variable is the coating on the nails. The dependent variable is the amount rust is on the nails. The coating on the nails did in fact prevent some rust, view the chart below for the results. Ratings on the nail quality scale are as follows: a) Rating of 4: Nail is intact, no rough edges, or any rust; the color of the nail is silver; b) Rating of 3: Nail is dull, some rough edges, some rust, less than 15% of the nail has rust; the color of the nail is gray and yellow; c) Rating of 2: The nail is mostly covered in rust, many rough edges, less than 75% of the nail is covered in rust, the color of the nail has some gray but mostly brown; Rating of d) 1: The nail is covered in rust, very rough, more that 75% of the nail is covered in rust; the color of the nail is dark brown. RAW DATA

Nail Quality

Nail #1 Nail#2 Nail#3 Nail#4

Nails with nail polish in Vinegar 4 4 4 4
Nail with nail polish in water 2.5 1.5 1.5 2.5
Nails with glue in vinegar 3.5 4 4 4
Nails with glue in water 3.5 3 2.5 3
Nails in vinegar 3.5 3.5 3 3.5
Nails in water 1 1 1 1

Nail Quality

Mode

Nails with nail polish in Vinegar 4
Nail with nail polish in water 2.5
Nails with glue in vinegar 4
Nails with glue in water 3
Nails in vinegar 3.5
Nails in water 1

The data supports my hypothesis; coatings do help prevent corrosion. It shows that the best coating for a nail is glue. The nail polish was not as successful as the glue because the coating chipped away, more so in the vinegar than the water, this so because of the acidic nature of the vinegar. After the layer of nail polish had chipped away water was able to meet with the metal and the nails started to corrode. A thicker layer could have been used to effectively protect the nails. The data demonstrates that nails do in fact react differently in different types of liquids. Water, as my hypothesis stated, is the liquid that causes the most corrosion. When the nails are in vinegar, they either dull slightly or are perfectly intact. IV. Conclusion

The purpose of this experiment was to determine, what types of liquids cause corrosion and which types of coatings are able to prevent corrosion. This data can be very important to those companies who lose millions of dollars on corrosion, which can be prevented or slowed. The nails that were placed in water, whether they had a protective coating or not did corrode somewhat. The nails the corroded the most were the nails that were not protected in water. The nails that corroded the least were the nails with glue in vinegar and the nails with nail polish in vinegar. The research data supported the hypothesis that if nails are put into water, then it will rust more so than if they are placed into vinegar. If a coating of nail polish or glue is applied to the nails then the nails will not rust as much as the nails without a protective coating. Oxygen and water are vital ingredients for oxidation; both are needed for oxidation to take place, oxidation is needed for iron to corrode. This would explain why the nails without a protective layer in water rusted the most. This would also explain why the nails with stronger coatings had the most success, without water to the iron oxidation could not take place.

To better the experiment, more liquids could have been used such as salt water and bleach. More that two trials could give this experiment better accuracy. More nails could have been used. I could have also tested if putting on the lids of the containers affected the results. In this experiment I used tap water, tap water contains carbon dioxide, which can form a weak acid. I could have boiled the water to minimize its acidity.

Natashadeleted
Student - Reston, Virginia


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I'm Sylvia and I'm an 8th grader doing a science fair project on "does pH affect the rate of rusting of an iron nail?". I used vinegar, water, and three vinegar-water mixtures (each with a different pH) to put my iron nails in. The pH's of each solution are approximately 2, 3.2, 4.4, 5.1, and 6.6. My hypothesis for this project is that the lower the pH the less the rust growth; is this hypothesis correct? And if it isn't then does pH really affect rust growth? Also, what are the results that I should get from my experiment?

Thanks for your time, and please respond a.s.a.p.

Sylvia Tdeleted
student - San Francisco, California


sidebar ++++

I commend the initiative of students who have posted questions on this forum. As you will no doubt learn if you continue with your interest in science, the latest innovations are built on the work of the generations of scientists who have gone before. A great deal of scientific education is based on teaching people where to look for existing information and how to expand on previous work. That's why its called "re"-search. Do not pay any attention to those who are admonishing you to do your own experimentation if you can find the answers on the internet or anywhere else. Just make sure that you can trust the source. Of course your teacher may not see it this way.

Steve Sdeleted
- Kingston, Ontario, Canada


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It's true that "we stand on the shoulders of giants", Steve. But to say that a student asking someone else to do their homework for them is equivalent to a researcher studying the work that has already been done on the subject before building upon it is a silly attempt at a parallel. To "commend" them for asking someone else to do their homework is "feel-goodism" at its worst.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. Ok I am in the eighth grade and I am trying to do a science project on a rusty nail, I wanna know if the rust will come off of the nail better in the Coke or the Sprite? I don't know whether that is the best way to go but it is all I have come up with, this project gives me excruciating pain, it is complicated and confusing as if it is a burden! Please help me on my crisis!

Jessica Cdeleted
I need help! - Jackson, Mississippi


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A. Don't worry. I'm in the 6th grade too doing almost the exact same project. What I did for my research was just ask simple questions like what causes nails to corrode?,what prevents to corrode?, and others then research and answer them. Good luck on your project

Kaitlyn deleted
- Largo, Maryland


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Hi,

My experiment is based on testing in what type of liquid will a nail rust the most. I did it with vinegar, water, and soda. I tried twice for 2 days and the results indicated water was the liquid that rusted the nail. My question is, shouldn't vinegar or soda rust somehow the nail as well, which I didn't notice.

Sebas Mdeleted
student - Miami, Florida


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I'm sure some one of you have looked into the matter of corrosion before beginning to investigate it. The process is sufficiently complex that inferences from experiments with "soda pops and vinegar" will be difficult or impossible without chemistry. Possibly, a basically new discovery could be made, but how would you recognize it? Initially, why not observe the behavior of metals or their ions in various solutions and from known chemistry infer the meaning of the observations. Then observe your original combinations and see how far you get...if a novel departure is necessary to explain an unusual result...to have something to follow up on.

James Freede
education - Boston, Massachusetts


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Hi,

Yes they are right it depends on the nails. I was doing the same thing except I put Zinc roofing nail nails in: 140 ml water 140 ml water 10 drops vinegar 140 ml water 1 ml salt none rusted but the one in vinegar started to grow algae. I also used a regular steel nail that went berserk so now you have one type of nail that will work.

Have fun with the project.

Melissa Tdeleted
- Oregon


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Q. Hi, I'm a 10th grade student, about to take a chemistry exam next Friday, and I'm getting really confused about cathodes and anodes. Am I right in saying that the anode is always where oxidation occurs?

In experiments in class, we put iron nails in gel with ferroxyl indicator. The indicator turned blue at the points of the nail, indicating Fe2+, and pink at the smooth parts of the nail, indicating OH-. Which is supposed to mean that the sharp points are the anode. Which means that the oxygen concentration at the sharp points is higher than at the smooth points. I don't get it -- why?! And why is the Fe2+ and OH- isolated? Please help!

Yingxin
- Hong Kong


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A. Yes, Yingxin. In a circuit or electroplating tank the anode is the electrode which is positively charged. As a result, anions (negatively charged ions) are attracted to it. When water ionizes to hydrogen and oxygen, or hydrogen and hydroxide, the oxygen ions are negatively charged and are attracted to the anode, causing an oxygen reaction or oxidation.

Another way to look at it--which amounts to the same thing--is that electrons are pumped by the battery through the wire from the anode to the cathode, leaving an excess of electrons at the cathode and a deficit at the anode. The excess electrons at the cathode 'reduce' the ions that come in contact with it, while the theft of electrons at the anode causes a rise in valence state, or oxidation of any material there.

They may be trying to teach you a little too much too fast, with the iron nail project though. When an iron item is stressed in manufacturing, such as when a head is formed or a point is ground, the result is that the highly stressed areas become anodic to the lower stressed areas. This causes corrosion or oxidation at the stressed areas. At the points, the nail oxidizes, that is to say that the Fe becomes Fe++ because electrons were removed from the iron atoms. The areas of lower stress, negatively charged, attract the ionized hydrogen from the water solution, leaving behind the OH- thus raising the pH.

Good luck!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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