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Money in a Blender-A Money Smoothie

Can you get iron out of a dollar bill?

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U.S. dollar bills are printed with special inks that contain traces of iron and other magnetic material in an effort to prevent counterfeiting. So, the only logical question that follows is, "Can you get the iron out of a dollar bill?" Steve Spangler accepted the challenge with the help of his friend, Bob Becker, who found a most unusual way to extract the iron from a dollar bill. You'll be amazed at how much iron is in a single dollar bill.

Materials
  • $1 bill (be sure to borrow it from a friend)
  • Kitchen blender
  • Water
  • Quart size zipper-lock bag
  • Super strongNeodymium Magnet
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Experiment

Note:  Make sure you check with an adult before using the blender and ask for supervision.

  1. You'll need a dollar bill. Now you could just dig down deep into your own pocket to find a bill or you can take Bob Becker's advice and borrow the bill from a friend. Hey, why should you have to provide the entertainment and pay for it too?
  2. Hold the neodymium magnet near the bottom of the bill. Notice how the bill is attracted to the magnet.
  3. Fill the blender half full with water (between 3 and 4 cups).
  4. After the bill has been thoroughly examined to verify that it's real, drop the dollar bill into the blender and put on the lid.
  5. What's next? Make dollar bill soup! Grind it, blend it, liquify it... just make sure it's torn into thousands of little pieces.  
  6. After the money has been grinding away for at least a minute, stop the blender and pour the contents into a quart size zipper-lock bag. Seal the bag.
  7. Place the neodymium magnet in the palm of your hand and place the bag of money soup on top of the magnet. Place your other hand on top of the bag and rock the slurry back and forth in an effort to draw all of the iron to the magnet. Flip the bag over and look closely at the iron that is attracted to the magnet. You can slowly pull the magnet away from the bag to reveal the iron!

It's easy to suggest repeating the experiment with a $5 or a $10 bill, but don't waste your money. A higher dollar amount doesn't mean a higher iron content.

How Does It Work?

Neodymium magnets (Nd-Fe-B) are composed of neodymium, iron, boron and a few transition metals. These magnets are extremely strong for their small size. As it turns out, at least some of the iron in the dollar bills is elemental. The inks are magnetic which makes it easy to read the bills with machines. Bob Becker shared the following information to help students better understand the real-world application:

  1. What evidence is there that the ink in a dollar bill is made of iron, instead of some other metal? The ink is strongly attracted to a magnetic field. Iron is one of only a few metals that is attracted to a magnet.
  2. Is the iron in currency present as ions or elemental iron? Elemental iron. The ions are not that strongly attracted to a magnetic field.
  3. What are the advantages to having magnetic materials in currency? The bill may be read by machines more easily. It may also help prevent counterfeiting.

Bob Becker adds, "Once the blender has been turned on, the distraught student can be comforted with such remarks as 'Don't worry, I'm just increasing your liquid assets!' or 'Just think, you'll never have a problem with cash flow again!' "

You might also want to check out our experiment called Magnetic Money.

Additional Info

Wait... isn't it illegal to destroy money? When Steve Spangler originally demonstrated this experiment on television, he contacted the U.S. Mint officials in Denver, Colorado, and asked for clarification on this law...

Section 333. Mutilation of national bank obligations

Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

The officials at the U.S. Mint tell us that the law only prohibits you from destroying or defacing money if you still intend to use it as money. If you're destroying it for some other reason, it's legal. That's how the companies that make the souvenir coin-flattening machines or magicians who make special coins get away with it. In fact, this law is actually printed on the side of some of the coin-flattening machines as a result of so many questions from people who have heard about the law but do not really understand it. Destroying a one dollar bill for the sake of extracting the magnetic ink probably means that you are not going to try to return the liquified bill into circulation. So, there's your get out of jail free card.

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