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Investigation to see how the heat energy produced by ethanol compares with the heat energy produced by propanol.

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GCSE Chemistry Investigation-


Aim-Investigation to see how the heat energy produced by ethanol compares with the heat energy produced by propanol.  

This experiment will depend on the combustion of two fuels (ethanol and propanol), which means the burning of these fuels. The word and symbol equations for the combustion of ethanol and propanol are shown below,  


To ensure that my experiment runs efficiently in there time allotted, I will help myself by drawing up an equipment list. I will need,

1 X thermometer

1 X copper can

1 X spirit burner

100cm3   water



The diagram below shows how the equipment will be set up in order to do the experiment.


Here is a gradual guide explaining how I will use the equipment provided in order to gain the most reliable results.  

  1. Collect the required apparatus and setting it out for the experiment,
  2. Measure 100 cm3 of water in a Measuring Cylinder from which I will then pour into the copper tin,
  3. Weigh the initial mass of the fuel I am using (ethanol and propanol) in grams and record the data,  
  4. I will also then take the initial temperature of the water and write down the result,
...read more.


= 4719 – 5750 = 1031KJ

The Molecular Structure of Propanol

Relative Atomic Masses

Carbon =12 (12 X 3) =36

Hydrogen =1 (1 X 8) = 8

Energy Breaking Bonds


Energy Making Bonds


2 X C-C (4X348) = 1392

6 x C=O (6X743) = 4458

1 X C-O (2X460) =920

8 x O-H (8X463) = 3704

7 X C-H (14X412) = 4768

1 X O-H (2X463) = 926

4 ½ X O=O (4 ½ X496) = 2232

Total = 10238KJ

Total = 8162KJ

Oxygen =16 (1 X 16) = 16
Relative Molecular Mass = 36 + 8 + 16 = 60

Total Energy Transferred

= 10238 - 8162 = -2076KJ

I can see from the results from my preliminary work that the overall trend is that proponal gives out more heat energy than ethanol. Depending on my results from my actual experiment I should receive a similar trend. There is clear evidence that the chemical reactions are exothermic, because the total energy released in bond making is greater than the energy needed for bond breaking. This is shown in the energy level diagram below.

The overall energy change in a reaction depends on the bond energies in the reactants and the product, which will release energy as heat.


Chemical bonds are forces of attraction between the atoms or molecules in a substance. Energy is needed to break these bonds and energy is released when new bonds are made. In a chemical reaction bonds between atoms in the reactant molecules are broken and new bonds are made.

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These reasons could have had an slight effect on my results overall, whereby it will have made my results lower than the theretical results, as shown in my analysis.  

 If I were to do this experiment again I would,

  • Weigh the water in the copper can using burette instead of a measuring cylinder.
  • Measure the distance between the can and the sprit burner between each fuel burnt.
  • Cut the wick to the same length after each fuel is burnt.
  • Insulate the copper can at the sides.  
  • User a Bomb Calorimeter so that draughts can be prevented and so that there is restrictions to the heat lost. The diagram below shows what the bond calorimeter would look like and how it would be set up.  

I think that despite the problems that occurred I still managed to gain a fairly reliable set of results in order to imply whether the energy loss for ethanol or propanol was bigger.  If I were to experiment further I could experiment with a much wider range of fuels to see whether their energy loss is bigger then propanol. Also I could investigate other factors that affect the energy loss from combustion, such as, the length of the wick, the heat source and the heat capacity. In doing this I can broaden my understanding in this section of chemistry.

...read more.

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