Home Manufactured Chlorates
This is a continuation of the first part of the series on making Chlorates at home using DIY type methods suitable to a survival situation. If you want an introduction to Chlorates and why you would want to make them, then check out part 1 of the series.
In the first part I showed how Potassium Chlorate could be produced using common household bleach. In part 2 I’m going to show how you can make Sodium Chlorate from common household salt and electricity using electrolysis. In this method, electricity is used to convert salt, which is the chemical Sodium Chloride into Sodium Chlorate by adding three oxygen atoms from water to the sodium chloride.
To start with you will need a few things before you can begin. Number one is salt. In this tutorial I use common table salt which is Sodium Chloride, because it is the most common form of salt available and is cheap and easy to find. You could use Potassium Chloride as well and this would produce a better end product as I explained in the first part of the series. Secondly you will need a container with a lid. It should be plastic, ceramic or glass only, as a metal container will corrode. I have used a cheap disposable Tupperware container. Third is a source of electricity, A power supply of 5 volts dc with the capability to handle at least 2 amps of current is a good starting point. I’ve used the power supply from a computer because it can produce 5 volts of really clean dc power and can handle well over 2 amps of current. In addition, they are extremely common. The fourth item is a set of electrodes. This is the most important part of the process because very few things will work. Mostly precious metals such as platinum or Titanium coated with rare-earth metal oxides. These can be purchased online for this very purpose and work quite well if you plan on making a lot of Chlorates, however they are not very common and that’s the point of this method. Luckily carbon will work well as an electrode material. Carbon rods are easily retrieved from 6 volt lantern batteries as I will show. Finally you will need some distilled water and some electrical wire.
To start, you will need to disassemble the lantern battery. Cutting around the top were the metal prongs are will allow you to remove the top and you will see 4 metal tubes with wires attached to them. Each of these is a cell and will produce 1.5 volts each with 4 in series making the 6 volts the battery is rated for. Cut the wires and pull the cells out of the plastic housing. The carbon rod is the piece in the center of each cell with a little metal cap on top. The cell is filled with a sticky paste of electrolyte and manganese dioxide. You will need to pull the carbon rod out of the cell with some pliers. This is made difficult by the sticky paste in the battery. Pull straight out without twisting or tugging as the carbon rods are brittle and will snap if flexed too much. If the metal caps pops off that’s OK but they make good points to attach wire to. You will need two carbon rods. With the rods free you can wipe them down to clean off any remaining battery paste.
Next you have to fit them through the lid of you container. If you use a plastic lid this is easy. Just heat up the rods and when they are hot enough, push them through the plastic and you have a perfect seal. If not, then a hole should be drilled through the lid the same size as the rods and sealed with hot glue or silicone.
With this all done, you can begin the setup. I recommend doing this outside under cover or in a garage as it will produce some chlorine gas but mainly just because it will stink. Start by filling your container up with hot distilled water. Then pour this into another large container. Add salt to the water and stir. Keep adding salt until no more is dissolved in the water and let it sit for 15 minutes then pour it back into the first container, keeping any undissolved salt from going into the first container. put the lid onto the container and make sure the carbon rods are immersed into the salt solution. Attach a wire to each rod either by twisting it around the rod or to the metal cap if it’s still attached. Attach the power supply to the wire and turn it on. You should see bubbles begin to form on the rods and a strong smell of bleach after a few minutes. Wrap the container in a towel to insulate it. The process will take about 5 days depending on how much solution you used. The solution needs to remain fairly warm but not too hot as the electrodes will start to fall apart.
When the solution is finished the electrodes will have dissolved a little bit and there will be a black power in the solution. You can filter this out with a paper towel and a funnel. Once everything is filtered you can begin to evaporate the water and, as this happens crystals of Sodium Chlorate will begin to grow. Removing the last little bit of water through normal evaporation might be a little difficult if you live in a humid or cold area. You can speed up the process a little with a heat lamp or a real low heat setting on a toaster oven or such. If you decided to use potassium chloride to start with. Another option is to put the filtered solution from the electrolysis reaction into a freezer to cause the Potassium Chlorate crystals to crystallize out of solution. You can then filter them out like I showed in part 1 of the series.
The final product can be purified even more by dissolving the Chlorate in as little boiling water as possible then cooling until crystals form again and discarding any liquid on top of the crystals of Chlorate.
I plan on going over a few other methods of Chlorate production in later articles using other sources of materials and equipment.