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Chemistry I

Activity 3.4: Lab Report Flame tests.

The elements are a rainbow when they burn


Purpose
The purpose of this experiment is observe different substances being exposed to high temperatures
and see how they react. Then, make a chart identifying the color emissions of the ten different
compounds previously observed in the laboratory. Try to identify the unknown substances by the
flame color.
In this case, our hypothesis will be:
The different salts exposed to fire will produce flames of different colors according to their chemical
composition and the energy received.

Introduction
The flame test is an experiment that we realized to get the knowledge of the colors that different
elements can make when they get burned. First we need to have special care about this experiment,
because of the fire and the alcohol, and also if some elements that were in the salts we used, when
they get burned, they leave toxic gas or something that can be dangerous for us. We burned the
different element salts with alcohol on 70% and we observed the colors emitted. Emission spectra are
the light emitted by an element and the element can emit it in different colors, our experiment was
about what colors they were in each case.
Because each element has an exactly defined emission spectrum, scientists are able to know what
elements are the workings in by the color of the flame. Some typical colors are blue (in Copper), red
(in Lithium and Strontium) or orange (in Calcium). The energy of the flame excites the electrons of
the salt ion to higher energy orbital (valence electrons), those electrons eventually relax back they
normally occupy in the ground state and release photons whose energy is equal to the gap between
the orbital the electrons fall from and fall to. That energy can be related to a frequency of light and it
can be related to the color of the light.

Materials
Bunsen burner
Watch glasses
Laboratory tweezers
70% ethanol
Copper(II) chloride
Sodium chloride
Calcium chloride

Potassium nitrate
Lithium chloride
Iron(III) nitrate
Barium chloride
Unknown substance A
Unknown substance B
Unknown substance C

Methods
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.

Place all the substances on watch glasses (one substance per glass).
Put alcohol at 70% in the watch glasses of the liquids (CaCl2, LiCl, CaCl 2, unknown
substance C).
Light the Bunsen burner.
Approach the burner to the substances in the following order: First, the copper chloride
(CuCl2). It will burn in an emerald green flame.
Then the Lithium chloride (LiCl). Its flame will be carmine red.
After that, the Calcium chloride (CaCl 2). It will have an orange color.
Do the same with the solids. First, approach the burner to the Iron nitrate, which is Fe(NO 3)3.
It produces golden sparkles.
Then the Potassium nitrate (KNO3). The flame will be lilac.
After, the Sodium chloride or common salt (NaCl). It will have an intense yellow tonality.
After that, the Barium chloride (BaCl2). It acquires a yellowish green.
Apply the same procedure to the unknown substances. Start approaching the fire to the
unknown substance A, which is a solid. It will burn in a lemon green flame.
Then to the unknown substance B, which is toxic, fine, and is a solid, too. Its flame will be
sky-blue.
Finally, approach the burner to the unknown substance C, which is a liquid. It will produce a
soft red.

Results
Compound
tested
1. Copper (II)
chloride
2. Sodium
chloride
3. Calcium
chloride
4. Potassium
nitrate
5. Lithium
chloride
6. Iron (III)
nitrate
7. Barium
chloride

Chemical
formula

Ion

Color observed

CuCl2

Cu+2

Emerald green

NaCl

Na+1

Bright yellow

CaCl2

Ca+2

Bright orange

KNO3

K+1

Lilac

LiCl2

Li+1

Carmine red

Fe(NO3)3

Fe+3

Golden sparkles

BaCl2

Ba+2

Yellowish green

1
2
3
5
4

67

Flame color
observed

Metallic
element
present

Chemical
symbol of
the element

Unknown
substance A

Lime green

Boron

B+3

Unknown
substance B

Sky blue

Lead

Pb+2

Unknown
substance C

Sr+2
Red

Strontium

Name and
chemical
formula of
the
unknown
compound
Sodium borate
- Borax
Na2B4O710H2O
Lead (II)
nitrate
Pb(NO3)2
Lead (II)
chloride
PbCl2
Strontium
nitrate
Sr(NO3)2
Strontium
chloride
SrCl2

C
B
A

Discussion or Analysis
In the experiment we saw that the entire compounds had different colors when they got in contact
with the energy (the fire). This happened because the electrons of the atoms received a lot of energy,
and when that happened, they get excited and they jump from one orbital to the next one. So when
they cool down they release all the energy they received. This is what produces the light, and the
color depends on the emission spectrum. So, with all these data, we concluded that our hypothesis
was accepted. Our probably mistakes may be some wrong information, but we were very careful to
chose our references.

Conclusions
The experiment consisted in heat with fire ten different substances to see the color of the light. Every
compound had a different flame color; some of them were really alike. After the investigation and the

analysis we concluded that our hypothesis was accepted, this means that each element have a
different flame color because the energy of the fire makes that the electrons jump to the next orbital
and when they return to their original orbital, they release energy and this produces the light.

Complementary tasks:
1) Were the observed colors from the metal or the non-metal? How do you know?
It depends only on the metal in the compound.
Because when you heat the salt it splits into the metallic and non-metallic ions. Due to the
change of temperature metallic ion changes state, and when returns it the electromagnetic
radiation given off has a particular color. For a salt, it is always the metallic element that is
involved in projected the color that is present, the non-metal atoms doesnt have influence on
the presented color.
For example you will find the color red given off when all strontium compounds are used, all
sodium compounds give yellow and all potassium compounds give a purple radiation.
2) What particles are found in the chemicals that may be responsible for the
production of colored light?
Electrons, because the excitement caused by heating makes the electrons jump from their
ground state into a higher energy level. The absorbed energy from there is released as a
photon of light when returning to its original place.
3) Why do different chemicals emit different colors of light?
The color of the light emitted depends on the energies of the photons (particles of light)
emitted, which are in turn are determined by the energies required to move electrons from one
orbital to another. A flame has lots of different energies existing within it all the time, and
every so often, it gets lucky and has the right quantity present to push an electron from one
orbital to another. When the electron drops back, it must release the same exact amount
energy that it absorbed. Depending on the element you put in the flame, various different
energies of photons (colors) will appear. Those colors are as distinctive to each element as
fingerprints are to people.
4) Why do you think the chemicals had to be heated in the flame first before the
colored light is emitted?
When a chemical that can be made to emit light is held over a burner, the energy of the burner
spreads quickly through the chemical as heat. The atoms begin moving faster and faster as
more energy is given to their electrons. Eventually the electrons gain so much energy that
they bump up an energy level. The electrons are unable to continue operating at their higher
energy levels and drop down to their original starting levels. But as the electrons move down,
they lose some of their energy. This energy escapes the atoms, and in some atoms it escapes
as photons that are emitted from the chemical as light.
5) Colorful lights emissions are applicable to everyday life. Where else have you
observed colorful light emissions? Are these lights emission applications related?
Explain why you think they are or are not.
I think these emissions are applicable in our life because we can identify the elements in this
way; burning them, just imagine if we are cooking and we saw some green fire, of course well
have caution, we know copper burns green. I have seen those colorful light emissions in the
neon lights at parties or when someone is repairing electricity and he needs to burn wires. I
think those applications in the light emissions are related because elements are everywhere in
our world! Everything is made of atoms and with the heat we can know which they are.

Final reflections

We can identify a compound or an element, even if we dont know the name, because of the color
when it burns. We can apply the elements light emissions to objects that we use every day,
according to the color of light. For example, the lampposts produce an intense yellow color, because
it is made of sodium. Some phosphorescent ads are made of Neon, and so on. Depending of the
purpose, it is possible to use different elements to generate different colors of light.

References
(2009, November 18). Retrieved October 11, 2014, from Flame Test Lab:
http://melissaschroth.wikispaces.com/Flame+Test+Lab
Scientific American. (1999, March 29). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Why do certain
elements change color over a flame?: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-docertain-elements-c/
Chemistry and light. (2010, April 29). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Science in School :
http://www.scienceinschool.org/2010/issue14/chemlight
Lacoma, T. (2014, September 01). Why Do Chemicals Have to Be Heated in the Flame First
Before the Colored Light Is Emitted? Retrieved October 12, 2014, from eHow:
http://www.ehow.com/about_6389214_do-before-colored-light-emitted_.html
Bleshenski, D. (n.d.). Flame Test Lab - David's Digital Portfolio. Retrieved October 12, 2014,
from https://sites.google.com/a/hightechhigh.org/davidbleshenski/10th-grade-2/mathchemistry/flame-test-lab
Flame tests. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from
http://www.chemguide.co.uk/inorganic/group1/flametests.html
Qualitative Reasoning Group Northwestern University. (n.d.). Temperature System. Retrieved
October 12, 2014, from http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/thermal/3-whatmakes-em-radiation.html
Brightstorm. (s.f.). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from
http://www.brightstorm.com/science/chemistry/the-atom/atomic-emission-spectra/
Chemskills. (s.f.). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from http://chemskills.com/?q=flame_test

Webexhibits. (s.f.). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from Flame Tests:


http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/3BA.html