Determine the best method that will create the cheapest, but largest quantity of Epsom salts in the quickest amount of time.

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My group and I are members of a small chemical company that are going in to business to produce Epsom salts. (Information on Epsom salts can be found in ‘background information). Our company name is ‘The Epsom Company’. In order to be the best company we have to ensure the Epsom salts we produce are a good quality. But despite this we are also looking to make a profit and so cost must be as limited as possible. We will need to pay strict attention to the cost of apparatus and equipment and aim to use a minimum amount of chemicals to produce the maximum amount of Epsom salts. Time is also an issue and the least time spent means more Epsom salts and more money. In this experiment we will try to determine the best method that will create the cheapest, but largest quantity of Epsom salts in the quickest amount of time.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION (obtained through research)

Epsom salts is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine and has several uses. The mineral product is used as a very effective foot soak, easing muscles, soothing the rough patches and absorbing odours. It can also be used as a bath enhancer in warm water for a soothing soak that can reduce stress. You can also massage Epsom salts over wet skin to cleanse, exfoliate and soften rough spots. It can also be used as a pain reliever to reduce the swelling from scrapes, take the sting out of insect bites or even remove splinters. It can also be used a face cleaner when mixed with cleaning cream, or even a homemade stain mask. Epsom salts can be used as a hair volumiser to condition the hair or can be used to make hairspray. It is also used a lot in gardening as it can be fed to plants, vegetables and lawn to make them larger and more healthy looking. You can even use it to defrost a window! The uses for Epsom salts is highly numerous and from looking at this list of uses you can see how useful and helpful Epsom salts are.

Epsom salts are made by reacting magnesium/magnesium carbonate with sulphuric acid (,which I will be doing in this experiment). The chemical formula for Epsom salts is MgSO4.7H2O. I have also researched information on the two chemicals I will be using in this experiment; sulphuric acid and magnesium.

Sulphuric acid is a clear, colourless, oily, and odourless liquid. Its chemical formula is H2 SO4. It is also known as battery acid, and hydrogen sulphate. In the United States more sulphuric acid is produced than any other chemical. Its main use is in phosphate fertilizer production. But it also has a number of other uses, most of which have been listed below.

  • manufacturing explosives
  • producing other acids
  • producing parchment paper
  • making glue
  • making wood preservatives
  • producing lead-acid batteries in vehicles
  • purification of petroleum
  • pickling of metal
  • electroplating baths
  • in nonferrous metallurgy
  • production of rayon and film
  • a laboratory reagent

Sulphuric acid is very corrosive. It can be found in the air as small droplets or it can be attached to other small particles in the air. When concentrated sulphuric acid is mixed with water, the solution gets very hot. Concentrated sulphuric acid can catch fire or explode when it comes into contact with many chemicals, including acetone, alcohols, and metals. When heated, it emits highly toxic fumes that include sulphur trioxide. It is capable of igniting finely divided combustible materials. It is reactive with organic materials, chlorates, carbides, fulminates, water, and powdered metals. It is soluble in water and ethyl alcohol.

The health effects of sulphuric acid are very corrosive and irritating and can cause direct effects on the skin, eyes, and respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts when there is direct exposure to sufficient concentrations. It can cause blindness if thrown on the eyes. Drinking concentrated sulphuric acid can burn the mouth and throat, erode a hole in the stomach, and possibly cause death. Breathing sulphuric acid mists can result in tooth erosion and respiratory tract irritation. Breathing small droplets of sulphuric acid that may be in polluted air may make it more difficult to breathe. Breathing large amounts of sulphuric acid droplets will also decrease the ability of the respiratory tract to remove other small particles in the respiratory tract.

Magnesium is the lightest of the structural metals with a density of only 1.74 However, magnesium is used as a structural metal in an alloyed form and most magnesium alloys have a density slightly higher than this. Magnesium is a reactive metal and is usually found in nature in the form of and oxide, carbonate or silicate, often in combination with calcium. This reactivity is one of the reasons why the production of magnesium metal requires large amounts of energy. The uses of magnesium largely centre on 3 properties of the metal - its ability to form intermetallic compounds with other metals, its high chemical reactivity and its low density. The world production of magnesium is small compared to the other structural metals such as steel and aluminium at only about 300,000 tonnes per annum. About half of this is used directly in aluminium alloys to harden and strengthen them. Casting metal components from either sand or die casting is the area of strongest demand growth for magnesium, particularly in the United States in the automotive market, as car producers attempt to meet current and future fuel economy standards. Below are other significant uses for magnesium:

  • in the desulphurisation of steel.
  • in the inoculation of cast iron.
  • as a chemical reagents.
  • the use of magnesium alloy corrosion anodes - for the protection of steel structures, such as the holds of ships, oil and gas pipelines and domestic hot water heaters.
  • the use of fireworks and incendiary devices.
  • the removal of bismuth from lead.
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In my investigation I will be using  molar quantities. A mole is a number, which is 6.023 x 1023. One mole of atoms or molecules of any substance will have a mass in grams equal to the relative formula mass (Ar or Mr) for that substance. The formula for finding the number of moles in a given mass is shown below:



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