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# Measuring rates of reaction

How the rate of a reaction is measured will depend on what the reaction is, and what product forms. Look back to the reactions that have been discussed so far. In each case, how was the rate of the reaction measured? The following examples will give you some ideas about other ways to measure the rate of a reaction:

• Reactions that produce hydrogen gas:

When a metal dissolves in an acid, hydrogen gas is produced. A lit splint can be used to test for hydrogen. The 'pop' sound shows that hydrogen is present. For example, magnesium reacts with sulphuric acid to produce magnesium sulphate and hydrogen.

$Mg (s)+H2 SO 4→ MgSO 4+H2$

• Reactions that produce carbon dioxide:

When a carbonate dissolves in an acid, carbon dioxide gas is produced. When carbon dioxide is passes through limewater, it turns the limewater milky. This is a simple test for the presence of carbon dioxide. For example, calcium carbonate reacts with hydrochloric acid to produce calcium chloride, water and carbon dioxide.

$CaCO 3(s)+2 HCl ( aq )→ CaCl 2( aq )+H2O(l)+ CO 2(g)$

• Reactions that produce gases such as oxygen or carbon dioxide:

Hydrogen peroxide decomposes to produce oxygen. The volume of oxygen produced can be measured using the gas syringe method (Figure 1). The gas collects in the syringe, pushing out against the plunger. The volume of gas that has been produced can be read from the markings on the syringe. For example, hydrogen peroxide decomposes in the presence of a manganese(IV) oxide catalyst to produce oxygen and water.

$2H2O2( aq )→2H2O(l)+O2(g)$

• Precipitate reactions:

In reactions where a precipitate is formed, the amount of precipitate formed in a period of time can be used as a measure of the reaction rate. For example, when sodium thiosulphate reacts with an acid, a yellow precipitate of sulphur is formed. The reaction is as follows:

$Na 2S2O3( aq )+2 HCl ( aq )→2 NaCl ( aq )+ SO 2( aq )+H2O(l)+S(s)$

One way to estimate the rate of this reaction is to carry out the investigation in a conical flask and to place a piece of paper with a black cross underneath the bottom of the flask. At the beginning of the reaction, the cross will be clearly visible when you look into the flask (Figure 2). However, as the reaction progresses and more precipitate is formed, the cross will gradually become less clear and will eventually disappear altogether. Noting the time that it takes for this to happen will give an idea of the reaction rate. Note that it is not possible to collect the $SO2$ gas that is produced in the reaction, because it is very soluble in water.

• Changes in mass:

The rate of a reaction that produces a gas can also be measured by calculating the mass loss as the gas is formed and escapes from the reaction flask. This method can be used for reactions that produce carbon dioxide or oxygen, but are not very accurate for reactions that give off hydrogen because the mass is too low for accuracy. Measuring changes in mass may also be suitable for other types of reactions.

## General experiment 1: Measuring reaction rates

Aim

To measure the effect of concentration on the rate of a reaction.

Apparatus

• 300 cm3 of sodium thiosulphate $Na2S2O3$ solution. Prepare a solution of sodium thiosulphate by adding 12 g of $Na2S2O3$ to 300 cm3 of water. This is solution 'A'.

• 300 cm3 of water

• 100 cm3 of 1:10 dilute hydrochloric acid. This is solution 'B'.

• Six 100 cm3 glass beakers

• Measuring cylinders

• Paper and marking pen

• Stopwatch or timer

Method

One way to measure the rate of this reaction is to place a piece of paper with a cross underneath the reaction beaker to see how quickly the cross is made invisible by the formation of the sulphur precipitate.

1. Set up six beakers on a flat surface and mark them from 1 to 6. Under each beaker you will need to place a piece of paper with a large black cross.

2. Pour 60 cm3 solution A into the first beaker and add 20 cm3 of water

3. Use the measuring cylinder to measure 10 cm3$HCl$. Now add this $HCl$ to the solution that is already in the first beaker (NB: Make sure that you always clean out the measuring cylinder you have used before using it for another chemical).

4. Using a stopwatch with seconds, record the time it takes for the precipitate that forms to block out the cross.

5. Now measure 50 cm3 of solution A into the second beaker and add 30 cm3 of water. To this second beaker, add 10 cm3$HCl$, time the reaction and record the results as you did before.

6. Continue the experiment by diluting solution A as shown below.

 Beaker Solution A (cm3) Water (cm3) Solution B (cm3) Time (s) 1 60 20 10 2 50 30 10 3 40 40 10 4 30 50 10 5 20 60 10 6 10 70 10

The equation for the reaction between sodium thiosulphate and hydrochloric acid is:

$Na 2S2O3( aq )+2 HCl ( aq )→2 NaCl ( aq )+ SO 2( aq )+H2O(l)+S(s)$

Results

• Calculate the reaction rate in each beaker. This can be done using the following equation:

$Rateofreaction=1time$(1)
• Represent your results on a graph. Concentration will be on the x-axis and reaction rate on the y-axis. Note that the original volume of $Na2S2O3$ can be used as a measure of concentration.

• Why was it important to keep the volume of $HCl$ constant?

• Describe the relationship between concentration and reaction rate.

Conclusions

The rate of the reaction is fastest when the concentration of the reactants was the highest.