Liquefying Oxygen

Got some liquid nitrogen, hydrogen peroxide, and a catalyst?

If so, you can collect a test tube’s worth:

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To prepare liquid oxygen:

  1. Get a standard 3% hydrogen peroxide bottle from the store.
  2. I have found that bottles are filled close to the top. Pour off about 50 mL or so. Otherwise the liquid will bubble up into the balloon.
  3. Add a pinch of MnO₂ or other suitable catalyst.
    • Adding more catalyst causes too much bubbling and material gets up into the balloon.
    • Chicken liver should work other than there might be big bubbles with material in the balloon.
  4. Fit a balloon over the mouth of bottle.
    • It takes a half hour or so to fill the balloon.
    • I found it works best to prepare one filled balloon in advance.
    • Show how to start the reaction and start to fill the balloon.
    • Place that aside for the next class/demo.
  5. When removing the balloon, it works well if a pinch clamp is used.
  6. Fit the filled balloon over the mouth of a test tube of suitable diameter for the balloon size.
  7. Release the pinch clamp.
  8. Place in liquid nitrogen.
  9. In about ten minutes, there will be a sizable volume of beautiful, ever-so-light-blue, paramagnetic  liquid oxygen.

Can a wet paper towel burn?

  1. Roll up a paper towel so that it will fit inside the test tube containing any leftover liquid O₂.
  2. Insert the rolled up towel into test tube.
  3. Pull out and ignite.
  4. It burns ashless!


Last Modified: July 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm

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Robin Reiner
October 16, 2010
9:38 am

This is neat. I would like to do it for my 8th graders as a demo, but being a bit new to chemistry I want to make sure I get it right. Can you provide the chemical reaction and a simple explanation that I can use?
Thank you,

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