"Carbon snake" experiment

How to make a huge black snake of sugar and sulfuric acid

A black snake crawls out of a glass of sug­ar when con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid is added to it.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • sug­ar;
  • con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid;
  • beaker (50 ml).

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Fill a beaker ap­prox­i­mate­ly two thirds full of sug­ar. Add 10-15 ml of con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid. Af­ter a while a black col­umn of prod­ucts of the de­hy­dra­tion and ox­i­da­tion of sug­ar be­gin to come out of the glass.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

Ow­ing to its de­hy­drat­ing and ox­i­diz­ing abil­i­ty, sul­fu­ric acid caus­es the break­down and car­boniza­tion of sug­ar. The mix­ture heats up, and wa­ter va­por and car­bon diox­ide are re­leased. This leads to the prod­ucts of the break­down of sug­ar be­ing pushed out of the glass. As soon as they make con­tact with air, they cool and hard­en.

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

The re­ac­tion mix­ture heats up in­tense­ly – avoid burns! Make sure sul­fu­ric acid doesn’t get on your skin or clothes. Wear pro­tec­tive glass­es and gloves. The ex­per­i­ment should be car­ried out in a fume hood or well-ven­ti­lat­ed room. Fol­low gen­er­al safe­ty rec­om­men­da­tions. Chem­i­cal ex­per­i­ments must be car­ried out in full com­pli­ance with the leg­is­la­tion of your coun­try.

Warn­ing! Only un­der pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion.