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Alysia Ninham

Set up of the apparatus as described by

the method (Kilpa, 2015)

In this experiment, enthalpy was able to be used to measure the
combustion rates of selected alcohols. By burning samples of
alcohols and measuring the temperature change is was possible to
graph the results. A noticeable, linear trend between the
relationship f the molar mass of the alcohols and the combustion
rates was observed, calculated and graphed. This technique was an
effective way to observe the basic effect of molar mass on
combustion rates.

In chemistry, alcohol (James, 2015) refers to an organic compound
with a functional hydroxyl group (OH), which is directly bonded to
Carbon. Alcohols are able to be combusted (AUS-e-TUTE, 2015) or
burnt to produce Carbon Dioxide and water.
Enthalpy (Clark, 2013) is reactions that take place between
chemicals that either absorb or give off heat. It is useful to
distinguish the heat released or taken in, in different circumstances,
at constant volume, at constant pressure etc.
Enthalpy equations (Christopher Evans, 2014) use various
components to calculate the energy taken in or released during the
reaction. The equation used in this course is as follows;

ms T
1000 n

H is the measurement of combustion

T is the temperature change in the water (start to finish)

m is the mass (in this case water)

1000 will turn the answer from Joules to Kilojoules
n is the moles of the alcohol being burnt

Alcohol (Berger, 2006)is useful to use in the practices of combustion

experiments because alcohols contain Carbon and Hydrogen atoms,
which can be burnt with the presence of Oxygen to produce Carbon
Dioxide and water.
In this design experiment, a hypothesis about the combustion of
certain alcohols was formed and tested using a repeated method.
By using the information referenced above, a hypothesis can be
drawn between the relationship with the molecular mass of the

alcohol and the energy released of drawn in during combustion. The

hypothesis in this design practical is that when the molar mass of
alcohols increase, the kilojoules released during combustion will also
increase. This hypothesis was used because as the molar mass
increases there are more Carbon and Hydrogen atoms available to
bond with Oxygen, therefore making more Carbon Dioxide and
water thus releasing more energy.
The independent variable expressed in the results is the molar mass
of each different alcohol. The dependent variable also expressed in
the results is the enthalpy of combustion, measured in kilojoules.
Results that will support the hypothesis include the linear
relationship between increasing molar mass and increasing
combustion. Results that wont support the hypothesis include the
linear relationship between increasing molar mass and decreasing
combustion or increasing molar mass and no change in the

Materials and method

9 large test tubes

3 alcohols with different molar masses
Retort stand
Heat mat
Empty coffee tin
Distilled water
Electronic scales


1. The retort stand and clamp were set up on top of a heat mat.
2. A rational amount of water (enough to measure temperature
but not too much that it will boil over) was measured using the
electronic scales and put into the test tube. (Dont forget to
take away the weight of the test tube).
3. An alcohol burner with a known molar mass was weighed and
recorded and placed under the test tube of water on the heat
4. An empty, metal coffee tin enclosed the site of the experiment
and gaps were wrapped in al-foil.

5. A thermometer was placed in the test tube of water and the

starting temperature was recorded.
6. The alcohol burner was lit and carefully observed for two
minutes (make sure the water doesnt reach boiling point).
After two minutes the flame was extinguished.
7. After two minutes the alcohol burner was weighed again and
the change in mass was recorded.
8. Steps 2-7 were repeated twice more to create replicates of
that specified alcohol burner.
9. Steps 2-8 were then again repeated using different alcohol
burners to achieve more results.
The calculations were taken and the averages for all
alcohols were graphed.

Below are the results of both the results achieved by the group in
the experiment and, for comparison, the true and published values
of the combustion of the selected alcohols.
The calculations to the results achieved by the group can be located
in the appendix.

Enthalpy of combustion vs molar mass of selected alcohols (true values)

R = 1

Linear ()

Enthalpy of combustion vs molar mass of selected alcohols

R = 0.89

Linear ()

graph which displays the true values of the combustion of the
selected alcohols (heptanol, hexanol and ethanol) shows a direct
and linear relationship between the combustion and the molar mass
of the alcohol. The very accurate R2 value indicates that the true
values are very high in precision.

The graph from my group however, indicates that a few errors

occurred in the methodological practices. The linear trend still
indicates an increasing relationship of molar mass and combustion.
Although, the R2 value reveals that the data isnt very precise and
cant be used to support the given hypothesis.

By observing the graph purely produced by the experiment, the
hypothesis is supported. There shows to be an increasing linear
trend between the molar mass and the combustion of certain
alcohols. However, given the low R2 value, on its own, it would not
by ideal to draw a conclusion based on these results.
By including the true published values of the combustion of the
same certain alcohols the reliability of the experiment can be
compared. As the trend similarly follows the same relationship, a
conclusion can be drawn about the reliability of the test, and it can
be ensured that with repetitions of the same method, a similar, if
not the same, trend can be calculated.
The validity of the results is detected to be high as the results test
what the method aimed to test.
As it is obvious of an outlier in the results, it becomes evident that
some errors may have taken place. The most likely cause of outliers
is random sources of error.
One major possibility of a random error could be in the calculations.
By incorrectly entering data it would be made evident by an outlier
on the graph. To reduce this possibility, it is essential to double
check calculations to minimize the risk of incorrect input.
Another source of random error could be the changes in distance
between the test tube and the flame from the alcohol. When the
flame was extinguished many times it was necessary to move the
test tube higher up the retort stand to prevent boiling over of the
water. If the test tube was not put back in the exact same spot it
may have an impact on the change in the temperature of the
combustion process. This would also appear on the graph in the
form of an outlier.
Another source of random error could be incomplete combustion. If
parts of the alcohol that showed disappearance werent fully
converted into water and Carbon Dioxide, it cannot be included as a
combustion rate. Outliers in the graph and also the production of
Carbon Monoxide in the experiment can identify this. The presence
of Carbon Monoxide would leave a black, sooty residue on the
bottom of the test tube indicating that there was not enough
Oxygen to pair with the Carbon. This factor can be extremely hard
to prevent as it is all about the balance of the elements, especially
Due to the similar trend, however drastically lower results, it could
also be possible that a systematic error could have occurred. One
possibility of systematic error could have been the inaccuracy of

some of the equipment including the thermometer or the electronic

scales. This can be identified by either an upward or downward shift
in the trend line. To prevent this from happening, the equipment
should be tested before hand. For example measuring the
temperature of a liquid of a known temperature could test the
thermometer. The electronic scales could be checked similarly by
weighing something with a known and constant mass.
Another source of systematic error was the design of the insulation
to keep the heat in. This would be classed as a systematic error
because the impurities and holes in the design remained constant in
the duration of the experiment. To fully trap in the heat to combust
the alcohol, it is ideal to have a completely sealed and escape-proof
enclosure. This error can be identified by a downward shift in the
trend line. To prevent this error from occurring, it would be ideal to
have a sufficient environment where all of the heat from the alcohol
had an affect on the test tube of water and didnt escape elsewhere.
The method of this experiment provided a lot of strengths. There
were a wide range of alcohols to choose from and experimented on.
Another major strength to the results was the use of replicated with
the testing of the alcohols. By adding replicates there was the ability
to reduce the effect of error in the results. Another great strength of
this experiment was the resolution of the electronic scales. By
having readings to three decimal places, the calculations became
more accurate.
However, there were quite a few weaknesses in the method of the
experiment. Due to a time constraint, only three of the alcohols
could be tested with adequate replicates than as hoped. A major
weakness to the experiment was the quality of the insulation that
the experiment used. The design unfortunately did allow a lot of
heat to escape thus reducing the effectiveness of the results.
Another weakness in the results could be the lack of comparison
against other groups and their results. By comparing the classes
results with the results in this experiment perhaps a stronger
conclusion could be drawn.


Despite the low R2 value the hypothesis shows to be supported. This

is supported by the use of the true values of the combustion of the
alcohols. With this information, we are able to know more about
chemical structures and function of organic molecules such as

AUS-e-TUTE. (2015, 01 06). Combustion of Alcohols. Retrieved 06
19, 2015, from AUS-e-TUTE:
Berger, D. (2006, 04 11). Why the molar mass of an alcohol affects
its enthalpy of combustion. Retrieved 06 19, 2015, from MadSci
Network: Chemistry :
Christopher Evans, M. C. (2014). Using and Controlling Reactions. In
M. C. Christopher Evans, SACE 2: Essentials Chemistry Workbook
(17th ed., p. 125). Adelaide: Adelaide Tuition Center.
Clark, J. (2013, 05). Various Enthalpy Change Definitions. Retrieved
06 18, 2015, from ChemGuide:
James. (2015, 06 17). Master Organic Chemistry. Retrieved 06 19,
2015, from Alcohols (1) Nomenclature and Properties:
Kilpa, N. (2015, 06 12). Set up of apparatus.

Referenced Appendix (calculations)