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Investigation into the production and conversion of energy.

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Investigation into the production and conversion of energy


Investigate a range of fuels and find out how much energy each one releases when it burns? I will use spirit burners with the compounds Methanol, Ethanol, Propanol and Butanol to heat water to find out how much energy was released.


The fuels I will burn are all hydrocarbons. When the fuels I chose burn, oxygen will be added to the substance. Below is one of the reactions I hope to create:


This reaction will also release heat as a form of energy. In my experiment I hope to achieve complete combustion with a blue flame. If the combustion is incomplete not enough oxygen will be getting to the hydrocarbon fuel and it won’t be burning fully and therefore it will produce a smoky yellow flame. The reaction would then also produce carbon and carbon monoxide as seen below.


The fuels are alkanes, which have single covalent bonds. You can see below the hydrocarbons name, and structural formula.


Methane, CH4Ethane, C2H6


Propane, C3H8                                           Butane, C4H10

...read more.


Ethanol        =         30gPropanol        =         44gButanol        =         58g

Hydrocarbons are very useful but as the chains get longer it becomes thick and loses its usefulness. Hydrocarbons are useful for many reasons but the main one is that it produces a lot of energy. I will burn the hydrocarbons in the experiment, which will produce a lot of energy given off as heat.


I predict that the heavier/longer chain hydrocarbon e.g. Butanol will be produce more energy per mole than the smaller chains such as Methane. As the mass of the molecule gets heavier the energy it produces will be more. I believe this because the heavier the molecule the more atoms it has to release more energy. The longer the chain of the hydrocarbon the more atoms they’re to produce more energy.

Fair Test:

To assure this is a fair test we must measure exactly 100cm³ of water every time. I must also record the weight of the spirit burner as soon as the water reaches the desired temperature. I must not leave it burning. To assure correct reliable results I will carry out the experiment 3 times with the fuels. I will also keep the wick length constant at 1cm. The can will be held 10cm above the wick each time.

Equipment I will need:

Spirit Burners

Spirits/Hydrocarbons (methanol, ethanol, Propanol and Butanol)

Clamp Stand

Tin can

Measuring Cylinder

Timer stop clock




  • Before the experiment begins I will have to have all the listed equipment above
  • Using the scales I will weigh the spirit burners before and after each experiment and the amount of weight lost whilst it was burning.
  • Measure 100cm³ of water and pour it into the tin can.
  • Insert the thermometer into the can and note the starting temperature.
  • Secure the can with the clamp in mid air and place the spirit burner underneath recording which spirit used.
  • Then start the clock and time how long it takes to reach 50°C
  • After the experiment weight the spirit burner. Then cool down the can and restart the experiment.  
...read more.


temperatures to get accurate results. This would allow me to see further what happens when you increase the amount of particles in a molecule and the affect it has on the amount of energy released. I might also try how long it takes the fuel to heat different amounts of water or even a totally different compound.    

...read more.

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