Iodine clock reaction
This is the hydrogen peroxide/ potassium iodide ‘clock’ reaction. A solution of
is mixed with one containing hydrogen peroxide , starch and sodium thiosulfate. After a few seconds the colourless mixture suddenly turns dark blue. This is one of a number of reactions loosely called the potassium iodide . It can be used as an introduction to experiments on iodine clock . rates / kinetics
This demonstration can be used at secondary level as an introduction to some of the ideas about kinetics. It can be used to stimulate discussion about what factors affect the rate of reaction. It also makes a useful starting-point for a student investigation.
As described this is intended as a demonstration, best done on a large scale for the most visual impact. The demonstration itself takes less than 1 minute. For a student investigation, the quantities required would be smaller but volumes then need to be measured quite accurately with, for example, disposable plastic syringes.
Balance (1 or 2 d.p.)
Beaker (1 dm
Beaker (250 cm
Volumetric flasks (1 dm
Measuring cylinder (50 cm
Measuring cylinders (100 cm
Stirring rod or magnetic stirrer and follower (optional)
Deionised/distilled water, 2 dm
Solution A (Note 1):
Soluble starch, 0.2g
Anhydrous sodium ethanoate (sodium acetate), 4.1 g
Potassium iodide, 50g
Sodium thiosulfate-5-water, 9.4g
Solution B (Note 1):
Glacial (concentrated) ethanoic acid (CORROSIVE), 30 cm
3 ( Note 2)
Hydrogen peroxide solution, 20 'vol' (IRRITANT), 500 cm
3 ( Note 2)
Refer to Health & Safety and Technical notes section below for additional information.
Health & Safety and Technical notes
Read our standard health & safety guidance
Wear eye protection.
Anhydrous sodium ethanoate, CH
3CO 2Na(s) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.
Potassium iodide, KI(s) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.
Sodium thiosulfate-5-water, Na
2S 2O 3.5H 2O(s) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.
Ethanoic acid, CH
3CO 2H(l), (CORROSIVE) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard and CLEAPSS Recipe Book. Handling glacial ethanoic acid requires care and should be done in a fume cupboard using gloves and eye protection.
Hydrogen peroxide, H
2O 2(aq) (IRRITANT) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard and CLEAPSS Recipe Book.
1 Solutions A and B should be made up before the demonstration. The solutions will keep overnight, but best results are obtained if the solutions are made up on the day. Sodium thiosulfate will react with acids to give sulfur dioxide and a precipitate of sulfur, hence the sodium thiosulfate and ethanoic acid are separated in solutions A and B respectively.
2 If you have access to 1 M dilute ethanoic acid, use 500 cm 3 of this to make solution B. Mix 500 cm 3 of 20 volume hydrogen peroxide with 500 cm 3 of 1M ethanoic acid.
is made up as follows:
a Make a paste of 0.2 g of soluble starch with a few drops of water in a beaker. Pour onto this approximately 100 cm 3 of boiling water and stir.
b Pour the resulting solution into a 1 dm 3 beaker and dilute to around 800 cm 3.
c Add 4.1 g of sodium ethanoate, 50 g of potassium iodide and 9.4 g of sodium thiosulfate. Stir until all the solids have dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature.
Pour the mixture into a 1 dm
3 volumetric flask and make up to 1 dm 3 with water.
is made up as follows:
e In a 1 dm 3 volumetric flask mix 500 cm 3 of 20 volume hydrogen peroxide with 30 cm 3 of glacial ethanoic acid and dilute to 1 dm 3 with water. (See Technician notes about using dilute ethanoic acid as a less hazardous alternative)
Both solutions are colourless although solution
A will be slightly cloudy.
f Measure 100 cm 3 of solution A and 100 cm 3 of solution B in separate 100 cm 3 measuring cylinders.
g Pour both solutions simultaneously into a 250 cm 3 beaker to mix. Ensure thorough mixing with a stirring rod or magnetic stirrer.
h After about 20 seconds at room temperature the mixture will suddenly turn dark blue.
The appearance of the blue colour may be timed – an assistant/student can start and stop the timer.
1 Hydrogen peroxide is capable of oxidising thiosulfate ions to tetrathionate ions but the reaction is too slow to affect this demonstration.
2 The ethanoic acid/sodium ethanoate is added to buffer the pH.
3 The acid will react slowly with sodium thiosulfate and produce a cloudy suspension of sulfur and release sulfur dioxide which is TOXIC - see CLEAPSS Hazcard. To avoid this the acid and sodium thiosulfate are separated in solutions A and B.
4 The CLEAPSS Guide L195 ‘Safer chemicals, safer reactions’ gives useful information about how to carry out rates experiments involving acid/thiosulfate mixtures more safely.
Visual tips: a white background will help so that the impact of the sudden and spectacular colour change is not lost. Scaling up the volumes of solution that are mixed may help in a large room.
There is no warning of when the blue colour is about to appear.
It may help understanding if the students are already familiar with the reactions of starch and iodine, and iodine and sodium thiosulfate, so it may be worth demonstrating these beforehand.
The basic reaction is:
2O 2(aq) + 2I – (aq) + 2H + (aq) → I 2(aq) + 2H 2O(l)
[For more advanced discussions or investigations - this reaction is the rate determining step and is first order with respect to both H
2O 2 and I –.]
As soon as the iodine is formed, it reacts with the thiosulfate to form tetrathionate ions and recycles the iodide ions by the fast reaction:
2O 3 2–(aq) + I 2(aq) → S 4O 6 2–(aq) + 2 I – (aq)
As soon as all the thiosulfate is used up, free iodine (or, strictly, I
3 - ions) remains in solution and reacts with the starch to form the familiar blue-black complex.
The time for the blue colour to appear can be adjusted by varying the amount of thiosulfate in
solution A so a ‘clock’ of any desired time interval can be produced.
If the demonstration is being done for entertainment, the imaginative teacher will be able to think up some suitable patter.
Health & Safety checked, September 2014
This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
© Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry
Page last updated October 2015