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    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

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Learners test solutions of water, sugar, salt, and hydrochloric acid for electrical conductivity. They immerse leads from a lighting device (a battery pack connected to an LED) into each solution. If the solution conducts electricity, the light turns on. Learners discover that only certain substances (those with dissolved ions) conduct electricity. Original operating guide (using a fan instead of a light, and a hand-cranked generator instead of a battery) with original title "Just Charge It" is included. This activity is currently used in the Nature of Matter Unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab. Cost estimates are per 100 learners. For safety reasons, this activity should be conducted as a demonstration for younger learners.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • culture plate, 4 wells
  • 4 ft copper wire, 10 or 12 gauge
  • 6-volt lantern battery, or 4 D-cell batteries
  • LED, red preferred
  • copper strip
  • (3) 250-mL squeeze bottles
  • 1T measuring spoon
  • 1kg sodium sulfate (Na2SO4)
  • 1kg sugar (C12H22O11)
  • 125-mL dropper bottle
  • 100mL 0.5 M hydrochloric acid (HCl)
  • super glue
  • hot-glue gun
  • small DC motor, fan propeller attached (optional)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Circuits
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, ©1997

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 9355628


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