Science, Tech, Math › Science How to Make "Black Snakes" Through a Sulfuric Acid and Sugar Reaction Dehydration of Sugar Is More Exciting Than It Sounds Share Flipboard Email Print When you react sugar and sulfuric acid you get carbon as a product. Andy Crawford,Tim Ridley/Getty Images Science Chemistry Projects & Experiments Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated January 29, 2019 Want to amaze your friends with your scientific wizardry? One of the most spectacular chemistry demonstrations is also one of the simplest. It's the dehydration of sugar (sucrose) with sulfuric acid. When you do this you, you create a bizarre and impressive "black snake" that emerges from your beaker! How to Create "Black Snakes" Basically, all you do is put ordinary table sugar in a glass beaker and stir in some concentrated sulfuric acid (you can dampen the sugar with a small volume of water before adding the sulfuric acid). The sulfuric acid removes water from the sugar in a highly exothermic reaction, releasing heat, steam, and sulfur oxide fumes. Aside from the sulfurous odor, the reaction smells a lot like caramel. The white sugar turns into a black carbonized tube that pushes itself out of the beaker. The Chemistry of How They're Formed Sugar is a carbohydrate, so when you remove the water from the molecule, you're basically left with elemental carbon. Carbon, of course, is black. The dehydration reaction is a type of elimination reaction.C12H22O11 (sugar) + H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) → 12 C (carbon) + 11 H2O (water) + mixture water and acidAlthough the sugar is dehydrated, the water isn't 'lost' in the reaction. Some of it remains as a liquid in the acid. Since the reaction is exothermic (heat-generating), much of the water is boiled off as steam. Safety Precautions If you do this demonstration, use proper safety precautions. Whenever you deal with concentrated sulfuric acid, you should wear gloves, eye protection, and a lab coat. Avoid standing over the beaker during the experiment or inhaling the steam generated. After the beaker has cooled, you can pull out the carbon and remove the residue from the glassware with acetone. It's preferable to perform the demonstration inside of a fume hood.