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Investigating the Energy Content of Fuels

Figure from experiment 7 from Investigating Chemistry through Inquiry

Introduction

Hydrocarbons are compounds containing only hydrogen and carbon atoms. Many common fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, aviation fuel, and natural gas are essentially mixtures of hydrocarbons. Paraffin wax, used to make many candles, is a mixture of hydrocarbons with the representative formula C25H52.

Ethanol, a substituted hydrocarbon with the formula CH3CH2OH, is used as a gasoline additive (gasohol) and as a gasoline substitute. Ethanol is an alcohol—a hydrocarbon derivative in which one or more hydrogen atoms has been replaced by a hydroxyl group (–OH). 1-propanol (CH3CH2CH2OH), 2-propanol (CH3CH(OH)CH3), and 1-butanol (CH3CH2 CH2CH2OH) are other common alcohols.

Objectives

In the Preliminary Activity, you will determine the heat of combustion of paraffin wax (in kJ/g). You will first use the energy from burning paraffin wax to heat a known quantity of water. By monitoring the temperature of the water, you can find the amount of heat transferred to it (in kJ), using the formula

q = C_p \cdot m \cdot \Delta t

where q is heat, Cp is the specific heat capacity of water, m is the mass of water, and Δt is the change in temperature of the water. Finally, the amount of fuel burned will be taken into account by calculating the heat per gram of paraffin wax consumed in the combustion.

After completing the Preliminary Activity, you will first use reference sources to find out more about calorimetry and fuels before you choose and investigate a researchable question.

Sensors and Equipment

This investigation features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Investigating Chemistry through Inquiry »

Investigation 7 from Investigating Chemistry through Inquiry Lab Book

<em>Investigating Chemistry through Inquiry</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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