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CHM 130

Empirical Formula of Magnesium Oxide


I. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this experiment is to determine the experimental empirical formula of a compound,
magnesium oxide, and compare it to its theoretical empirical formula, MgO.

II. EXPERIMENT

1. Clean a crucible and lid, rinsing thoroughly with deionized water as a last step. (It will not be possible to
get a used crucible completely clean.) Dry the crucible and lid with a paper towel. Check the crucible
for cracks. Your instructor will tell you how.

2. Place the clean, dry crucible and lid on a clay triangle on a ring stand and heat strongly with a Bunsen
burner (blue cone) for 5 minutes to remove any volatile material. Use crucible tongs to carefully move the
hot crucible and lid to a tile on the counter to cool completely. USE CAUTION TO AVOID BURNS!
Hot ceramic and hot metal look just like cold ceramic and cold metal. Once the crucible and lid are
completely cool (room temperature), weigh them on the milligram balance and record the exact mass on
the data table.

3. Obtain a piece of Magnesium ribbon that weighs about 0.3 g. (Do not take time to measure a piece of
exactly 0.300 g, just get close and record the exact mass used in the data table.) Crumple the ribbon and
pack it into the bottom of the preheated and preweighed crucible. Weigh the crucible, crucible lid, and
magnesium on the milligram balance and record the exact mass on the data table.

4. Place the crucible in the triangle as illustrated, with the crucible lid tilted slightly to allow air into the
crucible. Heat strongly with a Bunsen burner (blue cone). NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT
BURNING MAGNESIUM. If the magnesium starts to burn (very bright light emitted) and “smoke” is
given off, use crucible tongs to cover the crucible completely with the crucible lid for a short period of
time. After several minutes, tilt the crucible lid open again. Repeat the same procedure until no more
“smoke” is observed and the contents of the crucible no longer glow brightly as the crucible is heated.
Heat the crucible for several more minutes with the lid off completely so that the bottom of the crucible
glows a dull red. Remove heat and allow the crucible to cool completely on the clay triangle.

5. When the crucible has cooled, add 6 to 8 drops of distilled water to the contents of the crucible, using a
medicine dropper. Water is added to react with and then remove any nitrogen that may have been added to
your sample from the air during heating. Heat the crucible gently with the cover off for 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and allow the crucible to cool. Use crucible tongs to move the crucible and lid to a tile
on the counter to cool completely. Weigh the crucible, crucible lid, and product on the milligram balance,
and record the exact mass on the data table.

Bunsen burner blue cone Heating with lid tilted Heating with lid closed
Name______________ Section____________ Lab Partner_____________________

Report Sheet: Empirical Formula of Magnesium


I. DATA TABLE

Mass of crucible and lid after heating empty A

Mass of crucible, lid, and magnesium before burning B

Mass of crucible, lid, and magnesium after addition of water and final heating C

II. CALCULATIONS

a) Based on the data in your Table, what mass of magnesium is contained in your compound? Show your
calculation.

B – A = g of Mg

b) Based on the data in your Table, what mass of oxygen is contained in your compound? Show your
calculation.

C – B = g of O

c) Compare the mass of the Mg ribbon with the mass of the magnesium oxide (rows 2 and 3 in your Data Table).
Notice that the mass of the magnesium oxide is greater than the mass of the Mg. How do you account for this
apparent increase in mass?

Added oxygen from the air

d) Now that you have the mass of magnesium and oxygen in your compound, you can find moles of each element
in the compound and you can determine your experimental empirical formula. Show your calculations and
your empirical formula below.

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III. Additional Questions

1. The percent by mass composition of a salt was found to be 56.58% potassium, 8.68% carbon, and 34.73% oxygen.
What is the empirical formula of this salt?

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empirical formula = K2CO3

2. A compound containing iron and sulfur was formed by combining 2.233 g of iron with 1.926 g of sulfur. What is the
empirical formula of the compound?

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empirical formula = Fe2S3

3. Propylene has a molar mass of 42.00 g/mole and is composed of 14.3 % hydrogen and 85.7 % carbon. What is the
molecular formula of propylene?

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empirical formula = CH2

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molecular formula = C3H6