Chemistry coursework - Fuels

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In this investigation I will have to find out which of the alcohol fuels: methanol, ethanol, propanol and butanol, is the best. The ‘best’ one will be the one which creates the most energy whilst burning.

Introduction and prediction

A fuel is a substance burned for heat or power. The best type of fuel is one that: can be transported safely without the worry of it catching on fire, gives out a lot of heat for a certain mass, does not cost very much, lights quickly, burns slowly, is safe to use and does not give off any form of polluting gases.

When burning alcohols, as I am going to do in this investigation, the reaction is exothermic as heat is given out. Breaking the bonds of the original alcohol by burning requires energy-it is endothermic, making the bonds of the new products of burning the alcohol ie carbon dioxide and water gives out energy-it is exothermic.

I predict that Butanol will require the most energy as it has the most bonds holding the carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms together. Propanol will require the second largest amount of energy, Ethanol the third and Methanol the least amount of energy to break these bonds.

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Methanol CH3OH

Ethanol C2H5OH

Propanol C3H7OH

Butanol C4H9OH

Pentanol C5H10OH

Therefore I predict that Methanol will be the ‘best’ fuel, followed by Ethanol, then Propanol and the worst fuel will be Butanol.



100ml beaker



Safety Goggles

Heatproof mat

Spirit burner





Preliminary work

In year 7 we lit three alcohols and heated same amount of water to get the difference between the starting temperature and the ending temperature.


  • Measure 50ml of water into the beaker.
  • Put beaker into the clamp.
  • Fill the spirit burner with the ...

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Spelling, grammar and punctuation good throughout. Their graphs are hard to read so they should have presented them in a different format. The piece is split up into easy to read sections.

The aim of the experiment is outlined succinctly, however, to improve they should say what their definition of energy actually is in this instance. The candidate mentions pentanol in their line-up but then does not mention it in their prediction which is an error as they should not include its chemical formulae unless they are going to use it, as it would give out more energy than butanol. The prediction is explained well, but the candidate should mention which part of the energy they are examining to make it clear to the examiner that they understand it. The candidate does a good preliminary experiment which is good because it shows consideration of results or things that may confound the experiment and accounts for them making the experiment more reliable. Their evaluation is good because they consider things that may go wrong in the experiment.

The response to the experiment is done well. The candidate shows good research behind the experiment and consideration of how the experiment will be set up. The results are presented in an easy to read way with consistent decimal places used in the table. The evaluation is good for this level.