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The Preparation of Common Alum from Scrap








(SO4)3.24H2O from a discarded aluminium beverage can or

from a piece of aluminium foil.


Aluminium:Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the earths surface (7.5% by

mass). The abundance of Aluminium, coupled with its attractive
combination of physical and chemical properties, accounts for the fact
that it is one of the principal industrial raw materials used by
industrialized societies. Production of Aluminium from raw materials is an
energy intensive process. Aluminium because of its low density, high
tensile strength and resistance and resistance to corrosion is widely used
for the manufacture of aeroplanes, automobiles lawn furniture as well as
for aluminium cans. Being good conductor of electricity it is used for
transmission of electricity. Aluminium is also used for making utensils.
The recycling of aluminium cans and other aluminium products is a very
positive contribution to saving our natural resources. Most of the
recycled aluminium is melted and recast into other aluminium metal
products or used in the production of various aluminium compounds, the
most common of which are the alums.

Alum:Alum is a chemical product generally soluble in hot water and is usually

a white crystalline powder. It has various uses which include use in
water-purification plants, as a binder in dyeing fabric, in pickling, in
baking powder, in fire extinguishers, and as astringents in medicine.
Alums are double sulphates having general formula

X2SO4.M2 (SO4)3.24H2O
Usually when you hear about alum it is in reference to potassium alum,
which is the hydrated form of potassium aluminium sulphate and has the
chemical formula KAl (SO4)212H2O. However, any of the compounds with
the empirical formula AB (SO4)212H2O are considered to be alum.
Sometimes alum is seen in its crystalline form, although it is most often
sold as a powder. Potassium alum is a fine white powder that you can find
sold with kitchen spices or pickling ingredients. It is also sold as a large
crystal as a "deodorant rock" for underarm use.

Alum has several household and industrial uses. Potassium alum is used
most often, although ammonium alum, ferric alum and soda alum may be
used for many of the same purposes.


purification of drinking water as a chemical flocculant

in styptic pencil to stop bleeding from minor cuts

adjuvant in vaccines (chemical that enhances immune response)

deodorant "rock"

pickling agent to help keep pickles crisp

flame retardant

the acidic component of some types of baking powder

an ingredient in some homemade and commercial modeling clay

an ingredient in some depilatory (hair removal) waxes

skin whitener

ingredient in some brands of toothpaste

Basic principle of alum

Coagulation and flocculation are an essential part of drinking water
treatment as well as wastewater treatment.
Coagulation and flocculation are essential processes in various disciplines.
In potable water treatment, clarification of water using coagulating agents
has been practiced from ancient times. As early as 2000 BC the Egyptians
used almonds smeared around vessels to clarify river water. The use of
alum as a coagulant by the Romans was mentioned in around 77 AD. By
1757, alum was being used for coagulation in municipal water treatment
in England.
Coagulation is also important in several wastewater treatment operations.

IMPORTANCE OF THIS PROJECT:This experiment illustrates a chemical recovery process in which

waste Aluminium is converted chemically into an Aluminium
compound, hydrated potassium Aluminium sulphate, KAl(SO 4)2
12H 2O, or common alum. Although alum is an industrially
important compound, the method of preparation in this
experiment is not the way alum is obtained for use in industry.
Nevertheless, this experiment will illustrate an interesting example
of the reduction of environmental waste.

250 ml flask
Scrap aluminium or soft drink can
Potassium hydroxide solution (KOH)
6 M Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4)
Water Bath

Aluminium metal is treated with hot aqueous KOH solution. Aluminium dissolves as
potassium aluminate, (KAlO2).

2Al(s) + 2KOH (aq) + 6H2O (l) 2KAlO2 (aq) + 3H2


Potassium meta aluminate solution on treatment with dil. Sulphuric acid first gives
precipitate Al(OH)3, which dissolves on addition of small excess of

2KAlO2 (aq) + H2SO4 (aq) + 2H2O (l) 2Al (OH) 3 (s) + K2SO4 (aq)
Aluminium hydroxide on reacting with sulphuric acid gives Aluminium sulphate

2Al (OH) 3 (s) + 3 H2SO4 (aq) Al2 (SO4)3(aq) +6H2O (l)

K2SO4 (aq) + Al2 (SO4) 3 (aq) + 24 H2O K2SO4.Al2 (SO4)3.24H2O
The resulting solution is concentrated to near saturation and cooled. On cooling crystals of
potash alum crystallize out.

K2SO4 (aq) + Al2 (SO4)3(aq) + 24H2O (l) K2SO4.Al2 (SO4)3.24H2O(s)


Clean a small piece of scrap aluminium with steel wool and cut it into
very small pieces. Aluminium foil may be taken instead of scrap
Put the small pieces of scrap aluminium or aluminium foil(about 1.00g)
into a conical flask and add about 50 ml of 4 M KOH solution to dissolve
the aluminium.
The flask may be heated gently in order to facilitate dissolution. Since
during this step hydrogen gas is evolved this step must be done in a well
ventilated area.
Continue heating until all of the aluminium reacts.
Filter the solution to remove any insoluble impurities and reduce the
volume to about 25 ml by heating.
Allow the filtrate to cool. Now add slowly 6 M H2SO4 until insoluble Al(OH)3
just forms in the solution.
Gently heat the mixture until the Al(OH)3 precipitate dissolves.
Cool the resulting solution in an ice-bath for about 30 minutes whereby
alum crystals should separate out. For better results the solution may be
left overnight for crystallization to continue.
In case crystals do not form the solution may be further concentrated and
cooled again.
Filter the crystals from the solution using vacuum pump, wash the crystals
with 50/50 ethanol-water mixture.
Continue applying the vacuum until the crystals appear dry.
Determine the mass of alum crystals.

Mass of aluminium metal

= 27g

Mass of potash alum


Theoretical yield of potash alum

= 474g

Percent yield



Potash alum was prepared from Scrap Aluminium