I was attempting to synthesize hydrochloric acid and it seems to have formed another form of chlorinated acid. The smell is more of chlorine and is extremely powerful. I got some on my jeans and it bleached them white but caused me no burn. In fact as an acid it seems pretty weak by comparison to the smell which is overpowering and appears to be extremely toxic. The reaction was performed in a membrane separated electrolytic cell with $\ce{NaCl}$ as the electrolyte, $\ce{PbO2}$ anode, $\ce{Cu}$ cathode, $\pu{19.5 V}$.

I'm pretty sure it's not hydrochloric acid, I've worked with $\ce{HCl}$ a lot and I'm sure thats not $\ce{HCl + H2O}$, so what kind of acid did I form?

Is it just chlorine and water. If it is just $\ce{Cl}$ shouldn't it react with water to form a compound?

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Distillate Above is what I distilled from the product.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, it is just chlorine and water that does things like these. Or HClO, which is pretty much the same. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2019 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ 19 volts through a brine solution?! It might be anything. Or everything, in random concentrations. I would presume that those are some form of chlor*tes (hypo, per, hyper) since they all form at around 1-2 Volts. You cell is certainly limited not by what possible reactions you can have but by some internal resistance likely ohmic or bulk transport related. I hope you are aware that many of the perchlorates are unstable, very oxidizing and toxic. $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2019 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ @StianYttervik The the higher voltage is necessary due to the membrane composition which creates a high resistance between anodes resulting in less total power. Yes I am aware of the fact that chlorine oxoacids are highly oxidizing and can be toxic, but then again so is chlorine. $\endgroup$
    – user14828
    Feb 23, 2019 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin I agree, though there may be chloric and perchloric acid mixed in there. So frustrating. Now I've synthesized some Pink/Purple stuff that I can't Identify! $\endgroup$
    – user14828
    Feb 23, 2019 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


You've described the classic preparation of sodium hypochlorite, better known as "bleach".

If you electrolyze sodium chloride solution, you form hydrogen at one electrode and chlorine at the other, and sodium hydroxide in solution. But chlorine tends to dissolve in alkaline solutions to form chloride and hypochlorite ions. So you get "sodium hypochlorite" solution, which is actually a complex equilibrium between sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite, free chlorine, and (of course) water.

  • $\begingroup$ Well here's the thing, I think what I made was free chlorine and water. I have to separate half cells. The only way hypochlorite forms is in the presence of $\ce{OH-}$ In the Oxidation Cell where the Anode is and $\ce{H3O}(Hydronium) forms due to the oxidation of water releasing $\ce{O2}, etc, I synthesized this Acid not a base. I distilled it using my vigreux column, where it produced yellow chlorine gas and seemed to distill into the water. $\endgroup$
    – user14828
    Feb 23, 2019 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ It all came over except some salt and chartreuse water that doesn't have any odor at all. I had Yellow Chlorine water on the other side of the still. Perhaps Hypochlorous Acid? $\endgroup$
    – user14828
    Feb 23, 2019 at 14:54

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