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Hydrogen Sulfide Copper Pipe Testing

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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 purple-black-ish copper sulfide product, visible on the surface of the copper rod. This method has not been quantified or validated yet. Consider collaborating on this project to help assess it!

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, there are many questions yet to answer! More questions include:

Title Author Updated Likes
What are some options for copper materials to make a copper plate test kit? @warren 2 months ago
Can you use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover for prepping copper for Hydrogen Sulfide test? @Zengirl2 3 months ago
How to select a site for hydrogen sulfide testing? @warren 3 months ago
How can we safely try out and evaluate a hydrogen sulfide test? @warren 3 months ago
What's the best setup for a copper rod or copper plate test for DIY hydrogen sulfide detection? @warren 3 months ago
Can copper sulfide and copper oxide products be precisely visually identified? @gretchengehrke 3 months ago
How quickly do copper sulfide and copper oxide form under different environmental conditions? @gretchengehrke 3 months ago
Can we determine hydrogen sulfide concentration, or a threshold presence/absence using the copper pipe method? @gretchengehrke 3 months ago
What is the hydrogen sulfide concentration range that can be monitored using a copper tarnish method? @gretchengehrke 3 months ago
What are the reaction rates of hydrogen sulfide with oxygen versus copper or silver? @gretchengehrke 5 months ago
Show 1 more
What are the relative rates of hydrogen sulfide oxidation in ambient air? @gretchengehrke 5 months ago

Ask a question  or help answer future questions


Designing a field-based environmental study that uses this method would follow the general principles described in: However, since the copper sheets will be exposed for several days in the field, the temporal resolution would, of course, only be as fine as several days, during which industrial activities and environmental conditions could change. The general principles still do apply.

Activities people have designed using this method include:

Purpose Category Status Author Time Difficulty Replications
Copper Sheet Hydrogen Sulfide Detection Activity test-limits draft @gretchengehrke 1h easy 0 replications: Try it »

Add an activity  or request an activity

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 background research related to this method here:

Title Author Updated Likes
Article on monitoring hydrogen sulfide with a copper pipe @warren 9 months ago
Materials for Copper Pipe work @Sara almost 6 years ago
Summary of Lionel Milberger’s Copper Test @megan almost 6 years ago

hydrogen-sulfide method h2s-copper-pipe copper-pipe community-kits-prep