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An Investigation into using Alcohol’s as Fuel Sources

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An Investigation into using Alcohol's as Fuel Sources Aim The aim of this investigation is to compare the efficiency of a series of alcohols as fuels Experimental Details Alcohols are a closely related group of organic molecules that are capable of being used as fuel sources, for example spirit burners. One of the alcohols to be tested is ethanol which is made from fermented sugar. All alcohols belong to a family of chemicals whose general formula is C H + OH, with n as a whole number. When any fuel burns it releases heat energy into the surroundings within where it lies. Therefore it is known as an exothermic reaction as it releases heat energy to its surroundings. When alcohol burns it releases two products which are carbon dioxide and water. In order to burn an alcohol you need to supply it with some sort of heat energy, the heat energy then breaks up the reacting molecules into individual atoms. Once the fuel has burnt the atoms begin to recombine to form the products of the reaction, as they recombine, energy is given out. The four alcohols I will be testing are propanol, butanol, methanol, ethanol. In order to find out which is most efficient I will need to find out the amount of energy that is burnt. ...read more.


Apparatus * Copper Calorimeter * Clamp * Clamp stand * Boss * Spirit burner x4 * Heat proof mat * 100ml measuring cylinder * 100ml water * Stop clock * Digital weighing scales * Thermometer * Bunson burner * Splint Diagram Prediction The following table shows the heat of combustion for each of the 4 alcohols. Alcohol Heat of Combustion (kJ/mole) Molar Mass ( g/mole) Propanol -6144 60 Butanol -4972 71 Ethanol -7316 46 Methanol -5500 32 I predict that according to my table butanol will have the greatest weight loss as it takes the least amount of energy to heat it therefore it will be the first to begin giving out heat in the two. Ethanol will have the smallest weight change as it takes the most energy to burn which means it will release the least energy within the 2 minutes. I also predict that butanol will have the largest temperature change as it burns quicker and will heat the water up more within the 2 minutes. On the whole I believe that at this stage, theoretically butanol will turn out to be the most efficient. Fair test To keep my experiment fair here is a list of the constants: * The amount of water in the calorimeter (100ml) * This distance from the top of the spirit burner to the bottom of the calorimeter. ...read more.


On the first ethanol experiment I recorded the mass change as 1.5 when the other two were much lower this is the only anomalous result and I believe that it had no great effect on my findings. But it could mean that a few of my other results were like this without me realizing I believe that this is also due to human error rather than the equipment. I could have improved my experiment by testing the available alcohols more times, which would fine tune my conclusion. Or maybe I could use more accurate equipment and made sure that the only variables were the alocohols and water. Keeping the distances exactly the same between the heat source and the water. I could also have put a sort of cone shape around the spirit burner up to the copper calorimeter which would have kept the maximum amount of heat in and would have concentrated it onto the water itself. To extend my investigation I could have firstly investigated moe fuels, which would give me a much broader range and therefore allowing me to make my conclusion more accurate. I could also have tried increasing the amount of water or decreasing it which may have produced different results but should follow the same pattern. I could also have investigated other factors that affect the heat of combustion such as length of the wick, the distance between the heat source and copper calorimeter. ...read more.

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