We will be closed on August 21 to allow our employees to enjoy the Great American Eclipse.

Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Separation of Organic Compounds by Acid-Base Extraction Techniques


A commonly used method of separating a mixture of organic compounds is known as liquid-liquid extraction. Most reactions of organic compounds require extraction at some stage of product purification. In this experiment you will use extraction techniques to separate a mixture of an organic acid, a base, and a neutral compound.

Organic acids and bases can be separated from each other and from neutral compounds by extraction using aqueous solutions of different pH values. Most organic carboxylic acids are insoluble or slightly soluble in water, but these compounds are highly soluble in dilute aqueous sodium hydroxide because the acid is deprotonated by the base producing the sodium carboxylate salt.

{\text{RCO}}_{\text{2}}{\text{H(solv)}}  +  {\text{OH}}{^{\text{-}}}{\text{(aq)}} \to {\text{RCO}}{_{\text{2}}}{^{\text{-}}}{\text{(aq)}}  +  {\text{H}}{_{\text{2}}}{\text{O(aq)}}

The carboxylic acid can be selectively isolated by dissolving the mixture in an organic solvent that is immiscible with water, and then extracting the solution with sodium hydroxide. The basic aqueous solution containing the carboxylate salt is acidified, causing the sodium carboxylate salt to convert back to the carboxylic acid, which is not water soluble. The acid will precipitate from the solution, as shown here.

{\text{RCO}}{_{\text{2}}}{^{\text{-}}}{\text{(aq)}} + {\text{H}}{^{\text{+}}}{\text{(aq)}} \to {\text{RCO}}_{\text{2}}{\text{H(s)}}

Organic bases (e.g., amines) that are insoluble in water can be separated by extraction with hydrochloric acid. Addition of HCl to the amine produces the corresponding ammonium salt, which is soluble in water but not in organic solvents.

{\text{RNH}}_{\text{2}}{\text{(solv)}} + {\text{H}}{^{\text{+}}}{\text{(aq)}} \to {\text{RNH}}_{\text{3}}{^{\text{+}}}{\text{(aq)}}

The amine can be recovered from the aqueous solution by treatment with a base, converting the ammonium salt back to the amine. The amine is not water-soluble and will precipitate, as shown here.

{\text{RNH}}_{\text{3}}{^{\text{+}}}{\text{(aq)}} + {\text{OH}}{^{\text{-}}}{\text{(aq)}} \to {\text{RNH}}_{\text{2}}{\text{(s)}}  +  {\text{H}}{_{\text{2}}}{\text{O(aq)}}

Using your understanding of these properties, separation of a mixture containing a carboxylic acid, an amine, and a neutral compound can be carried out via sequential acid and base extractions. The precipitates will be collected and characterized by melting temperature analysis.


In this experiment, you will

  • Separate a mixture containing benzoic acid, 3-nitroaniline, and naphthalene.
  • Calculate the percent recovery of each component in the mixture.
  • Measure the melting temperature of each isolated compound.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

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

Standards Correlations

No standards correlations for this experiment.

Experiment 5 from Organic Chemistry with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Organic Chemistry with Vernier</i> 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.

Buy the Book

Go to top

We will be closed on August 21 to allow our employees to enjoy the Great American Eclipse.