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Q: conductivity of a sugar solution ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: conductivity of a sugar solution
Category: Science
Asked by: tc3147-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 16 May 2006 13:31 PDT
Expires: 15 Jun 2006 13:31 PDT
Question ID: 729471
Sugar is a non-electrolyte. In Bride of Chucky 3, jennifier tilly is
taking a bath when Chucky pushes a plugged-in radio into her tub.
She's toast. However, if jennifer were bathing in a tub filled with
water and 10 pounds of sugar, would the sugar solution be sufficient
to protect her from the 120V coming in through the socket via the
radio? Would she be able to jump out of the tub before she got
electrocuted? Or could she simply continue bathing, secure in the
knowledge that the sugar water would protect her?
Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
Answered By: livioflores-ga on 17 May 2006 00:48 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

The short answer to this question is that, in real life, Jennifer
Tilly will be electrocuted, even if ten pounds of sugar are added to
the tub.

To give you a longer answer let me start with an explanation of what
happens when you mix salts and sugar in water:
Take a recipient with distilled water, this water is almost pure water
and it has a negligible conductivity, i.e. it is not capable to
conduct electricity.

When you add kitchen salt (NaCl) to the distilled water the salt
dissolves in water by splitting its molecules in ions:
H2O + NaCl --> H2O + (Na+) + (Cl-) 
The NaCl molecules react to give ions. This happens because the NaCl
is a strong electrolyte. Solutions of strong electrolytes are good
conductors of electricity because they contain a relatively high
concentration of ions.

Sugar, as a non-electrolyte substance, does not produce ions when
dissolved in water. A solution of sugar contains molecules of sucrose,
but no ions. The absence of ions in a sugar aqueous solution makes it
a non electricity conductor fluid.

Now think of what happens when you add sugar to a kitchen salt solution:
The initial solution has ions associated to water molecules and it can
conducts electricity, if the solution if not saturated there are free
water molecules capable to dissolve more solutes (salt sugar, acids,
When you add sugar the remaining free molecules of water interact with
the added sugar molecules to dissolve them until saturation and NO NEW
IONS are added to the final solution, so the total amount of ions
remains being the same and the solution is still conductive (due the
presence of Na+ and Cl- ions).
Since the tab water is not pure and it has some salts diluted on it,
you will find that it is a good electrical conductor. This is why it
is wise to be very careful around electricity when your hands are wet.
When Jennifer is having a bath, her tub has tab water + soap + bath's
salts + the salts exuded by her due transpiration; this is a very
conductive solution, adding sugar to it only makes the water sweeter,
but it remains being a good conductor.
If she is taking the bath in a tub filled with distilled water, no
bath's salts added, no soaps and no transpiration, she does not need
sugar to be safe, in this impossible case the water is not conductive.

You can perform a simple experiment (I just did it and take me only a
few minutes to do it) to confirm the above statement:
Take a glass or a cup and fill it with tap water. You will need a
multimeter ( set as an
ohmmeter. You can buy a cheap one at any electronic store like this
one at Radio Shack:

Set the ohmmeter at 1K scale (the closer you have available to this
scale is good enough). Taking care that the two electrodes are not
touching neither  each other nor the recipient, introduce them into
the water, you will see the  needle moves telling you the water is a
Now remove the electrodes from water and add sugar to the water (the
amount you want, the result will be the same) and repeat the measure,
you will see that the needle is still moving telling you that the
dissolved sugar does not change the conductivity of the water.
You can also find that the Coca Cola soda is conductive, it has sugar
but also has other substances that make it conductive, and the sugar
does not prevent that.

For additional references if you want to go further with this topic
please visit the following pages:

- Regarding what a solution is:


"Solution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia":

- Regarding the properties of water as a polar solvent:

"The H2O molecule is electrically neutral, but the positive and
negative charges are not distributed uniformly. ... The electronic
(negative) charge is concentrated at the oxygen end of the molecule,
owing partly to the non bonding electrons (solid blue circles), and to
oxygen's high nuclear charge which exerts stronger attractions on the
electrons. This charge displacement constitutes an electric dipole,
... ; you can think of this dipole as the electrical "image" of a
water molecule.
Water molecules interact strongly with ions, which are
electrically-charged atoms or molecules. Dissolution of ordinary salt
(NaCl) in water yields a solution containing the ions Na+ and Cl ?.
Owing to its high polarity, the H2O molecules closest to the dissolved
ion are strongly attached to it, forming what is known as the inner or
primary hydration shell. Positively-charged ions such as Na+ attract
the negative (oxygen) ends of the H2O molecules ... "
Summed up from "Water and its structure": (this is a strongly recommended source)

"Dipolar nature of water -- Water (molecule) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia":

"Dissolving Salt Crystal Animation":
Grey (oxygen) + Red (hydrogen): water molecule
Blue: Cl- ions
Yellow: Na+ ions

"Dissolving Sugar Crystal Animation":

"Solutions": (PowerPoint Presentation)

- Regarding conductivity experiments and conclusions:

"Measuring Conductivity":

"Electrical Conductivity; Solutions":

Search strategy:
I used the following keywords at
sugar solution water conductivity
soda conductivity
solution water dipole

I hope this helps you. Remember that this answer is not considered
ended until you find it satisfactory. So please do not hesitate to use
the clarification feature if you need further assistance on this
question before rate this answer. I will be glad to respond your
clarifications requests.

Best regards,
tc3147-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00

Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
From: pinkfreud-ga on 16 May 2006 13:41 PDT
Researchers may wish to see the material provided in response to this
similar question:
Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
From: brix24-ga on 17 May 2006 11:16 PDT
You have a fine answer from livioflores. I'm commenting only because I
missed something earlier.

I just discovered a Word file that I had downloaded (but not opened
before now) that indicates that the conductance of 7 lbs of sugar
(sucrose) in 25 gallons of (distilled) water has the same (or slightly
greater) conductance than distilled water. The document is from Drexel
University, is for a lab experiment, and has answers in the
Instructor's Guide.

Which just goes to prove: It's hard to beat Chucky!

Search strategy: conductance sucrose water

The file is the third reference listed. (Sorry, I missed seeing the
download on my desktop earlier.)

Data from the Word doc:

Section: Instructor's Guide, table C.2:

Liquid:                             Molarity (concentration)   Conductance:
 Water, distilled	H2O	        ---                                 20 - 34
 Sucrose	C12H22O11	0.1                                 20 ? 40

The last table in the Instructor's Guide section has directions for
making 0.1 M sucrose (aka table sugar):

sucrose	0.1 M	34.2 g per 1 L

4 liters = ~ 1 gallon
25 - 30 gallons =~ 100 liters
                         =~ 3420 g sucrose needed
                         =~ 7 lb sucrose/sugar (at 454 g = 1lb)

(I doubt that it matters, but you can get exact amounts if you type
items like the following in the Google search bar:
25 gallons= ? liters
3420 g =? lb)
Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
From: brix24-ga on 17 May 2006 11:24 PDT
Sorry about the values under "Liquid" not aligning properly. I think
there were hidden tabs that came over when I copied and pasted. The
alignment was fine in the screen from which I sent the comment; hidden
tabs probably account for the change in spacing upon posting.
Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
From: brix24-ga on 18 May 2006 07:28 PDT
This is not related to the sugar part of the question, but Jennifer
would have had a much better chance of surviving if she had had GFCIs
(ground fault circuit interrupters) installed. A GFCI is not as sweet
a solution as ... (oops, bad double pun).
Subject: Re: conductivity of a sugar solution
From: livioflores-ga on 23 May 2006 02:58 PDT
Thank you so much for the good rating and the generous tip!!
I look forward to seeing more questions from you in the future.


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