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Colorimetric determination of a copper ore

An ore is any rock from which a metal may be extracted. Ores usually contain a compound of the metal, a mineral, together with waste material. To decide whether an ore is worth mining it is necessary to find out how much of the useful mineral it contains, and how much is waste. This experiment illustrates one way in which this might be done using a form of colorimetry in which comparisons of depth of colour are made by eye without necessarily using a colorimeter. Read our standard health & safety guidance

Lesson organisation
This experiment depends on the making and use of a set of comparison solutions of known copper concentration of the kind that might be used with a colorimeter. Here the comparison is made by eye but, as an extension, the solutions could be used in a colorimeter and a proper calibration curve drawn and used.

Apparatus and chemicals

Eye protection Each student or pair of students will require: Beaker (250 cm3) Beaker (100 cm3) Volumetric flask (100 cm3) Small filter funnel and filter paper, to fit volumetric flask Test-tubes, 6 (see note 1) Test-tube rack Plastic weighing dish (boat) Measuring cylinder (50 cm3) Measuring cylinder (10 cm3) Access to: A balance (weighing to the nearest 0.1 g) Purified (deionised or distilled) water Dilute sulfuric acid, approx. 2 mol dm-3 (Corrosive), 40 cm3 Sample of powdered ore (Harmful, Dangerous for the environment), 10 g (see note 2) Copper(II) sulfate solution, 1 mol dm-3 (Harmful, Dangerous the environment), 25 cm3

Clean, dry, sand, about 20 g (see note 3)

Technical notes
Dilute sulfuric acid (Corrosive) Refer to CLEAPSS Hazcard 98A and Recipe Card 69 Copper(II) sulfate solution (Harmful, Dangerous for the environment) Refer to CLEAPSS Hazcard 27C and Recipe Card 19 Copper(II) carbonate (Harmful) Refer to CLEAPSS Hazcard 26 1 Test-tubes must have a capacity of at least 10 cm3. 2 Simulated copper ore made up with a minimum of 30% by mass of copper(II) carbonate thoroughly mixed with dry sand. 3 Use dry silver sand or washed and dried building sand.

HEALTH & SAFETY: Wear eye protection throughout a Weigh out as exactly as possible 10 g of the ground ore and transfer it into a 250 cm3 beaker. b Add 40 cm3 of the dilute sulfuric acid a little at a time, allowing the effervescence to subside between additions. c When the reaction has finished filter the mixture into the volumetric flask. d Add purified water until the total volume of liquid in the flask is exactly 100 cm3. e Using the copper(II) sulfate solution provided, prepare six tubes of diluted copper(II) sulfate, according to the following table. Ensure the solutions are well mixed. Tube number 12345

Volume of copper(II) sulphate solution/cm3 8 6 4 2 0 Volume of purified water/cm3 2 4 6 8 10

f Pour a 10 cm3 sample of the copper solution from your volumetric flask into another test-tube.

g Compare the colour of your tube from part f with those from part e. Which one matches the colour best? h Estimate the mass of copper mineral in 10 g of the ore using the following table: Tube of best match 1 2 34 5

Mass of compound in 10 g of ore/g 10 7.5 5 2.5 0

Teaching notes
It is a good idea to set up the standard colour test-tubes in a rack, put white paper under the tubes and observe by looking down through the solutions.. When students have completed this experiment they are probably going to ask two things: 1 What is the correct answer? 2 How does the arithmetic work? For the answer to the first question, consult the person who made up the ore mixture it is best to come clean and confess that the ore is not a real one. Samples of copper ore, such as malachite, could be shown, if available. For the second question, work out the concentration of copper in, say, test-tube 3: Concentration Cu (as Cu2+) = 4/10 x 1 mol dm-3 = 0.4 mol dm-3 Work out the concentration of copper ions when 5 g of copper carbonate is dissolved and made up to 100 cm3 of solution: (Formula mass of CuCO3 = 124) Concentration Cu = (5/124) x (1000/100) = 0.4 mol dm-3 The two concentrations should be the same. However, this calculation works only approximately because basic copper carbonate also contains an equimolar amount of copper hydroxide and some water. It should be stressed that copper ores are seldom as concentrated as this. There are several other experiments on Practical Chemistry which relate to the reactivity of metals. Examples include: The reaction between zinc and copper oxide Extracting metals with charcoal

Displacement reactions between metals and their salts Thermite reaction