a PLAYCHEM experiment


Steel Wool is a fine fibrous form of steel and consists mainly, 90+ %, of iron (Fe). You are probably familiar with it in the form of "SOS" or "Brillo" for scouring and polishing pots and pans. These products are steel wool which has been loaded with soap to help in the cleaning. Plain steel wool is used to polish other metal objects and in the final steps of finishing fine wood products. This may have a trace of oil on it to retard its rusting. If you can't find steelwool in your supermarket, you certainly can find it in any hardware store.  Look but don't buy; for this experiment, we will furnish the steelwool.

The main object of this experiment is to determine how the mass of steel wool changes when you burn it in the hot flame of a Bunsen Burner. From these data and your other observations, you should be able to make a number of conclusions.

As you do this experiment, keep in mind other characteristics of steelwool, in particular its tendency to rust away. Also organize in your mind exactly what is the chemical meaning of burning. On this latter aspect, if worse comes to worse, try an unabridged dictionary.

sw1.jpg (5391 bytes)

sw2.jpg (5915 bytes)

sw3.jpg (5897 bytes)


In a second experiment, you will generate a beaker full of pure oxygen by decomposing hydrogen peroxide. 

2H2O2     =   2 H2O + O2

You will then heat a second weighed sample of steel wool until it just starts glowing and plunge it into the oxygen gas.

Compare the difference.

R.W. Kluiber 10/2/2003