Chemical Kim: Testing electrolytes in sports drinks

Science Friday with Chemical Kim

Here is a very fun and very easy kitchen chemistry activity for investigating electrolytes that are in sports drinks!

You will need:

  • popsicle stick
  • small LED light (old Christmas lights work)
  • 9V battery
  • wire strippers
  • tape
  • aluminum foil
  • water
  • salt
  • sugar
  • other household chemicals.

Now try this:

  1. Cut off a single Christmas light from an old Christmas light set and strip the coating to expose its two wires.
  2. Cover the top edge of a 9V battery with tape to insulate the metal by the terminals, keeping the terminals exposed.
  3. Attach one wire from the Christmas light to the positive terminal on the 9V battery and secure it with tape.
  4. Make two aluminum foil "wires" by rolling foil into long tubes.
  5. Secure the first aluminum wire to the negative terminal of the 9V battery with tape.
  6. Secure the second aluminum wire to the other wire from the Christmas light with tape.
  7. Tape all of this to the popsicle stick, leaving the aluminum wires parallel but not touching.
  8. You now have your conductivity meter to test different sports drinks solutions


When you exercise your body not only needs water, but also electrolytes. Electrolytes are compounds that separate into ions when put into water. This separation of ions also allows for a conduction of electricity in solution, which can be shown through a conductivity test (such as the one we just made).

Placing the conductivity meter into different solutions can result in having the Christmas light to light up or to stay unlit or to dim.

This is the result of either having ions in solution or not having ions in solution. Ions are positively charged atoms (that have a gain or loss of electrons). Two chemical compound types common in your home, when put in water, will put ions in solution. These compounds are ionic compounds and acid compounds. Salt is a common ionic compound and when put into water the NaCl separates into Na+ and Cl- ions which allow electrons to pass in the water completing a circuit making the light to glow.

Very fun and very cool!

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