30 May 2014

Day 101 / 103 - Rust Reducing Electrolysis

Over the winter, while sledding in our backyard, my son crashed into this rusty old axle.  My husband is in the process of restoring an old Schwinn bike, and he wanted to attempt an experiment using a direct electrical current to see if it would remove rust.  This would speed up the restoration process for him.  We figured this axle would be an adequate guinea pig. 

My children attempted this experiment last weekend, and I made them walk me through their process.

Purpose:  To see if rust would pull off the axle with electrolysis.

Materials:  water, baking soda, steel rods, clamps, bucket, battery charger, wires
Procedure:  Attach rods to the inside of the bucket and connect them with electrical wires.  Place axle in bucket.  Add 4 gallons of water to bucket to cover half of axle.  Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda.  Hook up battery -- positive lead to the steel rods and negative lead to the axle.  Turn on electrical current.  Wait 24 hours.

  Water bubbled.  Rods began to attract rust.  Water filled with rust.  Could see the portion of the axle in the water being cleaned.

Conclusion:  Removed some rust, but not all.

Factors That Could Be Changed for More Success:  Submerge axle fully.  Use more baking soda.  Use more wire and rods.  Use higher battery charge.
[The left side is the side that was submerged because it is lighter in color and more recently exposed to oxygen.  You are seeing the sub-layers of rust that haven't been exposed to oxygen in many years.]

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