Make Fuel in a Test Tube

Super easy and super fun experiment.
The test tube can be substituted with a small transparent glass.


You’ll need:Fuel-in-a-test-tube

  • Iron nail
  • Sandpaper
  • Vinegar
  • Test tube or a small transparent cup

The experiment:

  1. Sand the nail with the sand paper.
  2. Pour some vinegar into the test tube (or the cup).
  3. Soak the nail in the vinegar and watch it carefully

What’s going on here?

The tiny bubble you just saw on the nail are hydrogen bubbles. They are formed by a chemical reaction called redox reaction, which is part of the field of electrochemistry. Redox is short for REDuction-OXidation. In our experiment, the acid (vinegar) oxidizes the iron in the nail while being reduced by the iron to hydrogen gas.

Where is the fuel?

The hydrogen is the fuel! Hydrogen is commonly used in fuel cells, a device in which a redox reaction between oxygen and hydrogen produces energy and water. The reaction does not produce greenhouse gasses making hydrogen fuel cells a green technology. Also, fuel cell engines are more efficient than traditional gasoline engines making the technology extremely attractive to transportation industries. Fuel cell engines are under development in cars and airplanes and already being implemented in busses, bikes and boats.

Keep on experimenting:

Soak a magnesium ribbon in the vinegar. Could you produce more hydrogen?
Try other kinds of metals. Can you still produce hydrogen? Share your results with us!