Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Fossil Fuels

Figure from experiment 26 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry


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.

Ethyl alcohol, a substituted hydrocarbon with the formula C2H5OH, is used as a gasoline additive (gasohol) and as a gasoline substitute.


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 fossil fuel energy before you choose and investigate a researchable question.

Sensors and Equipment

This investigation 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

See all standards correlations for Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry »

Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Seasons and Angle of Insolation
2A Local Weather Study
3Investigating Dissolved Oxygen
4Water Quality
5Long Term Water Monitoring
6Water Treatment
7Investigating Salinity
8Soil Temperature
9Soil Salinity
10Soil pH
11Soil Moisture
12Soil and Acid Rain
13Managing Garden Soil Moisture
14Cell Respiration (CO2)
15Biodiversity in Ecosystems
16Biochemical Oxygen Demand
17Water Cycle Column Investigations
18Decomposition Column Investigations
19Ecocolumn Investigations
20Global Warming
21UV Investigations
22Comparing Sunscreens
23Primary Productivity
24Modeling Population Growth
25Insulation Study
26Fossil Fuels
27Energy Conversion
28Wind Power
29Photovoltaic Cells
30Investigation of Passive Solar Heating
31The Effect of Acid Deposition on Aquatic Ecosystems
32Measuring Particulates
33Investigating Indoor Carbon Dioxide Concentrations
34A Pollution Study

Investigation 26 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry Lab Book

<em>Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry</em> book cover

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