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Hydrogen Sulfide Copper Pipe Method

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This method, developed by Lionel Milberger, is a low-cost, accessible way to detect if hydrogen sulfide is present in the air. The elemental copper will react with hydrogen sulfide to produce a black-ish copper sulfide product, visible on the surface of the copper rod. This method has not been quantified or validated yet.

Design goals

As Lionel Milberger has written in an article in TEST Magazine, the goals of this method are to:

  1. Be able to detect copper at health-relevant, non-fatal concentrations, from several parts per billion (ppb) up to 100 parts per million (ppm).

  2. Be able to discern between copper oxides and copper sulfides forming on the surface of the copper rod.

  3. Be able to measure hydrogen sulfide even under rainy or humid conditions where a significant fraction of hydrogen sulfide will dissolve in the water.

  4. Be deployable, such that it does not require a person to be present for the duration of the test (like would be necessary with a hand-held probe).

  5. Be low-cost and accessible to anyone.


This method has not yet been quantified or validated. Mr. Milberger has observed black deposits (likely copper sulfide) forming under conditions where it is likely that hydrogen sulfide is present (near an oil field by his Texas home), and a reddish deposit (likely copper oxide) under other conditions. The lower concentration limit of this method, below which no visible copper sulfide would form, are not yet known. The rates of reaction between the copper rod and atmospheric hydrogen sulfide also are not known, nor are the influence of humidity or rain, or the relative rate of copper oxide formation. Thus, the questions are:

  1. What is the hydrogen sulfide concentration range that can be monitored using this method?

  2. Is it possible to determine absolute hydrogen sulfide concentration, rather than a threshold presence/absence using this method?

  3. What are the relative rates of copper sulfide formation and copper oxide formation under different environmental conditions and atmospheric concentrations?

  4. Can the copper sulfide and copper oxide products be more precisely identified?

Other questions people have had when using this method include:

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What are some options for copper materials to make a copper plate test kit? @warren almost 6 years ago 3
Can you use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover for prepping copper for Hydrogen Sulfide test? @zengirl2 almost 6 years ago 16
How to select a site for hydrogen sulfide testing? @warren almost 6 years ago 3
How can we safely try out and evaluate a hydrogen sulfide test? @warren almost 6 years ago 4
What's the best setup for a copper rod or copper plate test for DIY hydrogen sulfide detection? @warren almost 6 years ago 6
Can copper sulfide and copper oxide products be precisely visually identified? @gretchengehrke almost 6 years ago 5
How quickly do copper sulfide and copper oxide form under different environmental conditions? @gretchengehrke almost 6 years ago 0
Can we determine hydrogen sulfide concentration, or a threshold presence/absence using the copper pipe method? @gretchengehrke almost 6 years ago 0
What is the hydrogen sulfide concentration range that can be monitored using a copper tarnish method? @gretchengehrke almost 6 years ago 1
What are the reaction rates of hydrogen sulfide with oxygen versus copper or silver? @gretchengehrke about 6 years ago 0
What are the relative rates of hydrogen sulfide oxidation in ambient air? @gretchengehrke about 6 years ago 1


Activities people have designed using this method include:

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.


See research related to this method here: