Make: Projects – On-Demand Benchtop Gas Generator

Computers & Mobile Science
Make: Projects – On-Demand Benchtop Gas Generator

If you should find yourself in need of small volumes of gas at about atmospheric pressure for a reaction or project, generating it on the bench can be a convenient and inexpensive alternative to buying or renting a gas cylinder. An all-glass reactor for the benchtop production of gases was invented in the 19th century by Petrus Jacobus Kipp, who is known today primarily for this achievement. Kipp’s design incorporates the clever feature that stopping the flow of gas separates the liquid and solid reagents inside the instrument and thereby stops the reaction in short order. Thus the generator only produces gas when you need it, and may remain in a stable equilibrium state on the bench for hours or even days at a time, ready to resume operation as soon as you open the valve.

Being made of glass, however, a proper Kipp generator is an expensive piece of apparatus, with new models costing upwards of $250US as of this writing. However, as the useful gas-generating reactions are usually aqueous, rather than organic, an all-plastic Kipp generator is almost as useful as a glass version. PVC pipe is inexpensive, durable, ubiquitous, and easily and securely joined using cement made for that purpose. Demountable PVC fittings are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be used to provide the necessary “dismantlability” for loading solid reagent into the device. Presented here is my design for such a low cost Kipp-type generator, with instructions for its construction.

6 thoughts on “Make: Projects – On-Demand Benchtop Gas Generator

  1. Allozi Trash Paks says:

    This sounds great do you think one could use it to produce the gases needed at a constant pressure for gas lasers. I’m not sure what reagents one would use but thought I’d put it out there anyway?

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      Depends on the gas in question! If it’s a simple CO2 laser, then yes, this
      device or one like it could almost certainly be made to work. It might need
      a drying tube or other modifications. If it’s an inert gas He/Ne or Ar
      laser, well, there is no chemical reaction that will produce those
      single-atom gases. There may be special “clathrate” compounds that will
      trap inert gases and can be dissolved to release them, but that’s not a
      “reaction” as most would define it. And inert gas clathrates tend to be
      hard to come by.

  2. ssematimba samuel says:

    how sure are you with this find have u done some tests

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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