Fire and Alkanes: Reflecting on Year 12 Chemistry Day

16 January 2020

Year 12 Chemistry students took a day out from their normal routines at the start of this week to carry out two different chemistry practicals, each of which employed alcohol to reveal some of the fascinating outcomes and potential challenges involved in practising advanced chemistry.

The first practical involved determining the enthalpy of combustion of alcohols, a fun practical that involved burning a specific mass of alcohol and using the heat energy evolved to heat water. As the number of carbon atoms in the alcohols increases sequentially, so should pupils be able to see the enthalpy of combustion increase by a sequential amount. From this pupils were able to see that this experiment is notoriously inaccurate however, and a fun way to problem solve how to reduce the amount of heat loss to the surroundings in the experiment. Emphasis was placed on analysis, evaluation and use of excel for processing.

‘The smell of the alcohols was a bit overpowering, but everyone loves a flame.’

Year 12 Chemist

The second practical was completely different and involved making a halogenoalkane from an alcohol. This detailed organic chemistry preparation gave pupils the opportunity to use an array of vital organic equipment to understand fully how an organic substance can be produced, as well as how to handle concentrated acid safely. It is a very detailed practical, which enabled pupils to see how hard it is to produce a significant yield of the product.

‘This is so different to normal lessons. The equipment is really cool, although very easy to break.’

‘Always remember to keep the top on when mixing using a separating funnel, and to release the pressure, otherwise all is not good!’

Year 12 Chemists

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