Following the recent MFMP announcement on a possible transmutation success with George Egely's microwave cavity device, the Ohsawa reaction and some papers I found in the published literature (also see this), I decided to do a quick experiment with improvised equipment.
Note that experimental conditions are not controlled. The experiment is as cheap as it gets, just made out of curiosity.
The carbon rods are actually pencil rods. Graphite in these rods is certainly not pure (it contains binders, impurities, etc). I used two pairs of "rods":
- Two broken pencil rods of roughly 60 mm each, from the same Faber-Castell HB (orange) lead pencil
- Two Koh-I-Noor refill HB pencil leads, about 150 mm length
The power supply is an old no-brand 12V DC output, ATX computer PSU.
One rod is connected to ground potential (black wire), the other on +12V (yellow wire) using standard electric wires and insulating tape. Electrical contact seemed adequate.
I first tried with the Koh-I-Noor refill pencil leads.
Before doing the actual arcing experiment I scrape off some graphite powder from the leads with an utility knife. I test with a subjectively powerful neodymium magnet from a broken hard disk drive for any magnetic response. The flakes do not seem to respond at all to the magnetic field.
I then connect the rods to the DC PSU. To keep things simple, since the reaction is reported to also occur in air, I only use the bare rods without submerging them in water as in some reports (besides, I would need a different power supply and better equipment for this sort of experiment).
Arcing in this experiment is induced manually. By rubbing the graphite rods together, small but sometimes bright sparks can be easily produced. The rods need to make contact repeatedly for this to work, otherwise they will just heat up.
Eventually, some graphite flakes can be exfoliated from the exposed pencil leads. There can be a preferential direction along which the flakes come off more easily. I keep contact light in order to keep producing small smarks.
Sharp/small protuberances on the rods (e.g. from graphite flakes that haven't fallen yet) appear to produce more intense light, sometimes surprisingly so.
To the touch, the positive rod appears to heat up sensibly more than the other held at ground potential, but this hasn't been tested for accurately.
The short Faber-Castell HB half-pencils appear to have a softer lead that flakes off easily. They heat up more and produce brighter (still small) sparks. Larger currents are clearly involved here.
Graphite flakes falling off the Faber-Castell HB half-pencils also seem more magnetic than those from the harder Koh-I-Noor refill leads. On average they have a larger size, but this hasn’t been characterized in detail.
In both cases I don't get large movement of the graphite flakes after hovering the Nd magnet at a close distance through a sheet of paper; for the most part they only reorient along the direction of the magnetic field.
Afterward, I put the apparently magnetic flakes in 5% acetic acid solution (vinegar). However, I seem to get no reaction or change in appearance of the flakes (which might contain iron). Unfortunately I didn't have a readily available way to burn the graphite flakes at high temperature in air.
Not having other
means to check with at the moment, I can't confirm whether iron was actually
produced. Still, I suspect
that with stronger arcing/larger currents the effect could be made more visible.
A similar experiment is shown in this video (this is not me!):