Demonstration or class practical

Solid hydrated barium hydroxide is mixed with solid ammonium chloride in a beaker. An endothermic reaction takes place to produce a liquid, with the evolution of ammonia. The temperature drops dramatically to about -20 °C.

Lesson organisation

Although the experiment can be safely carried out as a class experiment (with GCSE or A-level candidates in mind), it lasts only about 5 minutes and is probably not worth the extra time spent by students setting up and clearing away. Therefore it is recommended as being more suitable as a teacher demonstration. Students could be allowed to feel the outside of the very cold container.

Apparatus Chemicals

One demonstration will require:

Eye protection: goggles

Beaker (100 cm3)


Thermometer, reading to -30 °C (Note 1)

Top-pan balance

Fume cupboard (optional)

Barium hydroxide-8-water (CORROSIVE), 32 g

Ammonium chloride (HARMFUL), 10 g

Concentrated hydrochloric acid (CORROSIVE)

Universal indicator (or litmus) paper, 1 strip

Refer to Health & Safety and Technical notes section below for additional information.

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance

Wear goggles. 

Barium hydroxide-8-water, Ba(OH)2.8H2O(s), (CORROSIVE) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.

Ammonium chloride, NH4Cl(s), (HARMFUL) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.

Concentrated hydrochloric acid, HCl(aq), (CORROSIVE) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard. Use a small stock bottle, to provide fumes for ammonia test.

1 Consider using a thermocouple-type of thermometer which can be connected to a large display or computer monitor.


Before the demonstration
Weigh out separately the barium hydroxide and the ammonium chloride. Avoid lumps as far as possible.

The demonstration
Work in a fume cupboard unless the room is well ventilated.

a Stand the beaker on a watch-glass containing a few drops of water, so that the base of the beaker is touching the water.

b Note the room temperature.

c Mix the two solids in the beaker and stir with the thermometer. The mixture becomes slushy as a liquid is formed, together with a white suspension.

d The presence of ammonia can be detected by smell, and confirmed by blowing fumes from the hydrochloric acid bottle across the beaker’s mouth and by using moist indicator paper.

e Observe the drop in temperature, which is confirmed by the fact that the beaker freezes to the watch-glass.

Teaching notes

It helps to use a large thermometer display. The cold beaker can be passed around the class once the evolution of ammonia has stopped.

It is not possible to determine easily the exact barium compound or compounds produced in this reaction but the equation is usually represented as:

Ba(OH)2.8H2O(s) + 2NH4Cl(s) → 2NH3(g) + 10H2O(l) + BaCl2(s)
Ba(OH)2.8H2O(s) + 2NH4Cl(s) → 2NH3(g) + 8H2O(l) + BaCl2.2H2O(s)

A-level students could be asked to calculate the value of the enthalpy and entropy changes for the reaction, using standard enthalpy changes of formation and standard entropy values obtained from a data book or from the table below.


DHf / kJ mol-1

S / J mol-1 K-1



















An enthalpy change of +164 kJ mol–1 is obtained if the product is assumed to be BaCl2(s), and +135 kJ mol–1 if it is assumed to be BaCl2.2H2O(s). Students should be able to predict qualitatively that the entropy change for the system has a positive value because a gas and a liquid are formed from two solids. From the values above they could also be asked to calculate the actual entropy change for the system and the surroundings, and hence ∆Stotal or ∆G for the reaction and confirm that the process is spontaneous. A value of ∆Ssystem of +591 J mol–1 K–1is obtained if the product is assumed to be BaCl2(s) and +530 J mol–1 K–1  if it is assumed to be BaCl2.2H2O(s).

Health & Safety checked, 2016


This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

© Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry

Page last updated October 2015