Analysis of Unknown Aqueous Solutions Essay Sample

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Carbon dioxide is easily identified using a solution of calcium hydroxide (limewater). When carbon dioxide is bubbled through limewater, it turns cloudy (formation of calcium carbonate precipitate).

Ca(OH) (aq) + CO2 (g) –> CaCO3 (s) + H2O (l)

EQUIPMENT: 1. 5 straws

2. 5 solutions (each in a test tube)

METHOD: 1. Carefully blow into each solution

2. The one that turns cloudy will be calcium hydroxide

Ethanoic Acid

When ethanoic acid is warmed with ethanol (in presence of a strong acid catalyst) ethyl ethanoate is formed. During this reaction, the O-H bond in ethanol is broken.


EQUIPMENT: 1. 5 solutions (each in a test tube)

2. Concentrated sulphuric acid

3. Ethanol

4. Distilled water

5. 5 beakers

6. Heating equipment (including Bunsen, splints and heatproof mat)

METHOD: 1. Heat solutions with ethanol and concentrated sulphuric acid

2. Allow cooling time

3. Pour contents into beakers containing 50cm3 of cold water

4. Cautiously smell vapour. Ethyl Ethanoate smells strongly of pears

RISK ASSESSMENTS: 1. Wear eye protection

2. Concentrated ethanoic acid is corrosive so wash away any spills immediately with plenty of water

3. Wear gloves and lab coat for protection

4. When smelling the vapour, hold beaker at a distance, fill lungs with air and cautiously waft vapour towards nose

Nitric Acid

To completely identify an acid, you need to test for the anion. We need to test for the nitrate ion (NO3-). To do this, we need to boil the suspected nitrate with sodium hydroxide solution and fine aluminium powder. The fumes produced contain ammonia.

Now test for ammonia using hydrochloric acid. When a strip of filter paper is soaked in concentrated hydrochloric acid and exposed to ammonia gas, a white smoke made of fine ammonium chloride particles is produced.

Aluminium powder (a reducing agent) converts the nitrate ion (NO3-) into ammonia gas (NH3).

concentrated hydrochloric acid + ammonia –> ammonium chloride

HCl (conc) + NH3 (g) –> NH4Cl (s)

EQUIPMENT: 1. Sodium hydroxide solution

2. Fine aluminium powder

3. Hydrochloric acid

4. Filter paper

5. 5 beakers (one with each solution in it)

6. Heating equipment (including Bunsen, splints and heatproof mat)

METHOD: 1. To each solution add aluminium powder and sodium hydroxide solution

2. Boil. Meanwhile soak filter paper in hydrochloric acid

3. Expose piece filter paper to gas

4. If nitric acid (and ammonia gas is present) white smoke will be produced from the filter paper


Halide ions react with silver ions to from precipitates with various colours and varying tendencies to redissolve in ammonia solution.

EQUIPMENT: 1. 5 solutions (each in a test tube)

2. Dilute nitric acid

3. Silver nitrate solution

4. Pipettes

METHOD: 1. To each solution add dilute nitric acid and silver nitrate solution

2. If bromide ions are present, a pale yellow precipitate of silver bromide will form.


This is exactly the same as above but if chloride ions are present, a white precipitate of silver chloride will form.

SECTION B – determination of concentration of nitric acid




Colour in acid

Colour in alkali








Red / pink

Methyl orange




Bromophenol blue





1. Nitric acid

2. Sodium carbonate

(0.500mol dm-3)

3. Methyl orange

4. Burette

5. Funnel

6. Measuring cylinder

7. Pipette

8. Beaker

9. Conical flask

10. Clamp/stand

11. White tile

12. Safety goggles


1. Set up the clamp stand and burette

2. Making sure tap is closed, pour acid into burette

3. Place beaker underneath and expel some of the liquid (to remove air bubbles)

4. Refill with acid until reading reaches 0cm3

5. Remove funnel

6. Measure 25cm3 of sodium carbonate and put into conical flask

7. Add 3 drops of methyl orange indicator and mix

8. Place conical flask on white tile and begin titration

9. Slowly add small amounts of the titrant from the burette, swirling the mixture between additions

10. As soon as the solution turns pink (end-point of reaction) stop the flow of acid from the burette and measure how much has been used

11. Repeat the experiment 3 times for more accurate results and use the average in calculations

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