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Chemistry: Demo: Conductivity of Molten Salts


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 3:57
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 42 MB
  • Posted: 07/14/2009

This lesson is part of the following series:

Chemistry: Full Course (303 lessons, $198.00)
Chemistry: Condensed Phases: Liquids and Solids (15 lessons, $25.74)
Chemistry: Solid State: Structure and Bonding (5 lessons, $7.92)

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Chemistry, taught by Professor Harman, Professor Yee, and Professor Sammakia. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers atoms, molecules and ions, stoichiometry, reactions in aqueous solutions, gases, thermochemistry, Modern Atomic Theory, electron configurations, periodicity, chemical bonding, molecular geometry, bonding theory, oxidation-reduction reactions, condensed phases, solution properties, kinetics, acids and bases, organic reactions, thermodynamics, nuclear chemistry, metals, nonmetals, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and more.

Dean Harman is a professor of chemistry at the University of Virginia, where he has been honored with several teaching awards. He heads Harman Research Group, which specializes in the novel organic transformations made possible by electron-rich metal centers such as Os(II), RE(I), AND W(0). He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Gordon Yee is an associate professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and completed postdoctoral work at DuPont. A widely published author, Professor Yee studies molecule-based magnetism.

Tarek Sammakia is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he teaches organic chemistry to undergraduate and graduate students. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University and carried out postdoctoral research at Harvard University. He has received several national awards for his work in synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry.

About this Author

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So you all know that, if you make an aqueous solution of an ionic solid - so, for instance, sodium chloride dissolved in water - then that solution conducts electricity. The related experiment, where we look at the conductivity of solid sodium chloride or, in this case, lithium chloride, is an interesting illustration of the lack of conductivity in an ionic solid. What I have here is lithium chloride in this little dish, and I have 2 electrodes, 2 copper wires, connected in series with this light bulb. And, when I plug it in, nothing happens. But watch what happens when I begin to heat this ionic solid and melt it.
So what we're doing is we're using a Bunsen burner to heat the bottom of this dish that contains lithium chloride, and look what's happening. So part of this is probably that we had a little bit of water, because lithium chloride - see, the light went out. Okay, why did the light go out? First, there was some water associated with the lithium chloride, because it's an ionic solid, it really likes water. And so, as we started to heat it up, that little bit of water was probably liberated and we made a dilute solution of lithium chloride and that was enough to conduct electricity. And, if you listen really carefully, you can hear the water boiling off. But then, once the water is evaporated, then it doesn't conduct electricity anymore, and so the light bulb went off again. So that was not the real experiment. Let's see what happens as we heat this up and, hopefully, this solid is going to start to melt, and then the light bulb is, hopefully, going to come back on again.
Now, I can go out and get a snack, like I have on some of the other demos, but it's probably not a good idea to leave the lab with a fire going underneath your experiment, so I'll just hang out here. There we go. Okay, now you can see that it's burning brightly, meaning that the ions in this molten solid are somewhat mobile or, if it's still mostly a solid, the anions and cations are mostly mobile, enough to support conductivity. And when we turn off the gas, everything is going to resolidify again. And remember, an ionic solid that's in its solid form doesn't conduct electricity. It's only after we heat it up and get it sort of molten, where the ions have some mobility, so getting toward the liquid phase that they have some mobility. So, when we take the heat off, what we expect to see is that the light bulb is going to dim. And, ultimately, it's going to turn off. Eventually. Hopefully. Some day. It almost looks like the ball that fortunetellers look into.
Condensed Phases: Liquids and Solids
Solid State: Structure and Bonding
CIA Demonstration: The Conductivity of Molten Salts Page [1 of 1]

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