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Mike's Rocket Diary Day 1 2 3

Day One

It’s a strange place 'reality'-TV world. Keen to demonstrate the process of electrolysis, I mistakenly add table salt (sodium chloride) to the water in my electrolysis cell. The conductivity of water is so low that some ionic compound like this has to be added to allow current to pass through the cell and produce hydrogen and oxygen. As a result of my mistake, the oxygen formed at the cell’s anode is contaminated with chlorine gas – it smelt like a swimming pool! This would account for the fact that the oxygen wouldn’t re-light a glowing splint (a standard test for the gas). Strange thing is that, having recognised the problem caused by the sodium chloride, I’m not allowed, on camera, to be seen to be rectifying it by using battery acid (sulphuric acid) in place of sodium chloride. The “logic” is that the challenge is to power a rocket using water “only”, and that while the viewer will accept me adding salt to the water to get it to conduct, it would be beyond the pale to add sulphuric acid instead. From a chemist's point of view, this would be the obvious solution to the problem, particularly given the fact that, on camera, just behind my scaled-up electrolytic cell, there are eight or nine9 car batteries, each containing sulphuric acid. I don't altogether see the logic of what's been decided. As I say, it’s a strange place 'reality'-TV world.


Mike tests his rocket
Scientists Diaries

It's nearly all over - but will the team be able to complete the final challenge? Follow the task in their diaries: