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									                                     EXPERIMENT 5
                                    THE ASSAY OF ASPIRIN

Aspirin is made by the reaction of salicylic acid and acetic acid. As a consequence of this aspirin
has two acid portions, each of which can be neutralized by base. One mole of pure aspirin is
therefore able to consume two moles of base. The base first neutralizes the acetic acid but
releases a new acid, salicylic acid. Salicylic acid cannot be neutralized until the acetic acid is
released. This new acid also has to be neutralized so a second portion of base must be added. It
is therefore possible to titrate aspirin in two portions, the first neutralizing the acetic acid and the
second neutralizing the salicylic acid. The reactions occur relatively quickly so speed is
important when titrating the acetic acid (the first part of the titration). In theory, both titrations
should take equal amounts of base since one mole of aspirin is made from one mole of acetic
acid (neutralized in the first titration), and one mole of salicylic acid (neutralized in the second
titration). Unfortunately this is not always the case.

If aspirin is stored for long periods of time, water in the air can react with the aspirin and reform
the salicylic acid and acetic acid from which it was made. If all of the aspirin was decomposed in
this manner then there would be no second titration since the salicylic acid would already be
released. It would be titrated along with the acetic acid in the first titration.

Suppose for example that you have 1.0 mole of aspirin, but 0.2 mole of it has decomposed. What
you would have left is 0.8 mole of aspirin, 0.2 mole of acetic acid, and 0.2 mole of salicylic acid.
There would therefore be 1.2 moles of acid present in the first titration and not 1.0 as one might
assume. In the first titration you would be neutralizing the acetic acid, the salicylic acid and the
aspirin (1.2 moles of acids total), but you would be releasing 0.8 mole of salicylic acid (from the
aspirin) during the titration process. You would therefore still have 0.8 mole of the released
salicylic acid left to be titrated in the second titration. So even though it should take one mole of
base for the first titration and one mole of base for the second titration it may take more moles for
the first than for the second if the aspirin has decomposed.

In this experiment you will be given a sample of aspirin to titrate and then determine whether any
of this aspirin has decomposed. In addition you will calculate the random error involved in each
step and the overall error in your measurements.

Measurement of Errors

Every procedure has an error associated with it. These errors have three possible sources,

1) Personal error
2) Method error
3) Random errors
Personal errors are never reported because they can be fixed. If you make a mistake, correct the
mistake and continue the experiment. Method errors are errors inherent in the way in which an
experiment is done. For example, it is not possible to scrape all of the solid off of a piece of
filter paper to weigh the solid. This would be an example of method error. Method errors are
non-random, they are always either positive or negative (In the case of the solid, the real mass of
the solid will always be larger than the amount you scrape off. Therefore this error is always

Random Errors

Unlike personal and method errors, random errors do not have a particular value nor can they be
fixed. Random errors arise because of the equipment we use is not perfect. You have noted by
now that the balances "flicker" between two mass values when you read them. This is due to
random error.

When you read a buret sometimes your eye will be a little low, and sometimes a bit high. If your
are always low or high this is personal error for which you can account. But if you have done
everything you can to assure that you are reading the buret correctly, you still have to decide what
that last digit is in your measurement and if you are doing everything right, sometimes you will
guess high, and sometimes low. This is random error.

Random error is always written as a plus and a minus. For example you might read the mass of
a sample as 2.456 +/- 0.002 grams. This means that the real mass of the sample is somewhere
between 2.454 and 2.458 grams, but due to fluctuations in the sensitivity of the balance you do
not know which value exactly. The plus/minus values are determined by the best estimate that
one can make when READING an instrument (not when adding or subtracting errors). Our
burets can be read to within +/- 0.02 mL and the balances can be read to within +/- 0.002 grams.

Propagation of Error

Once an error is known for an individual measurement, these measurements can be added,
subtracted, multiplied, and divided and the errors associated with the results of these
mathematical manipulations can be reported.

Adding and Subtracting Errors

When two numbers are added or subtracted and each of them has an error associated with them
then you take the square root of the sum of the squares of the errors.

Example: Addition

       Add 1.2 +/- 0.02 and 2.5+/- 0.03
       Answer: 1.2 + 2.5 = 3.7 +/- ?

       To get the error you do the following,

       ? = ((0.02)2 + (0.03)2)1/2 = 0.0361 = 0.04 (sig.figs)

       You would therefore report your answer as 3.7 +/- 0.04.

Example: Subtraction

       Subtract 1.2 +/- 0.02 from 2.5+/- 0.03

       Answer: 2.5 - 1.2 = 1.3 +/- ?

       To get the error you do the following,

       ? = ((0.02)2 + (0.03)2)1/2 = 0.0361 = 0.04 (sig.figs)

       You would therefore report your answer as 1.3 +/- 0.04.

Multiplying and Dividing Errors

When two numbers are multiplied or divided then you take the square root of the sum of the
squares of the relative errors. The answer is then multiplied by the result of the multiplication or

Example: Multiplication

       Multiply 3.60 +/- 0.020 by 4.00 +/- 0.030

       Answer 3.60 x 4.00 = 14.4 +/- ?

       To get the error do the following,

       ? = ((0.02/3.6)2 + (0.03/4)2)1/2 = 0.00933

       0.00933 x 14.4 = 0.134

       You would therefore report your answer as 14.4 +/- 0.134 = 14.4 +/- 0.1 (sig.figs)

Example: Division

       Divide 3.60 +/- 0.020 by 4.00 +/- 0.030
       Answer 3.60/4.00 = 0.90 +/- ?

       To get the error do the following,

       ? = ((0.02/3.6)2 + (0.03/4)2)1/2 = 0.00933

       0.00933 x 0.90 = 0.0084

       You would therefore report your answer as 0.90 +/- 0.0084= 0.900 +/- 0.008(sig.figs)

EXPERIMENT: Get a sample of powdered aspirin from the instructional assistant or the
instructor and accurately weigh three samples of 0.40 - 0.45 gm each into 150 mL Erlenmeyer
flasks. Do not dry the samples, Dissolve each sample in turn in 15 mL of absolute alcohol, add 4
drops phenolphthalein indicator, and titrate each sample quickly to the first persistent faint pink
color with standard 0.1 M NaOH.

Record this volume and then add, from your buret, that same volume again + 5 mL excess. Place
the flasks on the steam bath for 15 minutes to allow reaction (2) to proceed to completion. Then
back-titrate the excess base with your standard 0.1 M HCl.

From the total titration volumes you may calculate the percentage aspirin in your sample, and a
comparison of the first and second titration values will give you a qualitative measure of the
decomposition which has occurred. Perform a complete error analysis for this experiment.
Name                                                                              Date
                                THE ASSAY OF ASPIRIN

PROCEDURE: Quickly titrate a sample of aspirin with a portion of NaOH using
phenolphthalein as the indicator. Add an equivalent amount of NaOH plus excess. Titrate the
excess with standardized HCl. Use these values to calculate the percentage of aspirin in the
sample, percent decomposition, and propagate the errors involved in the titration.


Molarity of NaOH =                    Molarity of HCl =

 Mass of             Trial #1      Volume          Volume       Volume HCl
 Aspirin Used                      NaOH            NaOH



 Mass of             Trial #2      Volume          Volume       Volume HCl
 Aspirin Used                      NaOH            NaOH



 Mass of             Trial #3      Volume          Volume       Volume HCl
 Aspirin Used                      NaOH            NaOH


                               Aspirin Assay: Sample Calculations

1)      Sample mass             sample wt.                  ±0.       (= A)

2)      First base titration    final reading               ±0.02

                                initial reading             ±0.02

                                first volume                ±0.

3)      Second base increment final reading                 ±0.02

                                total added base            ±0.        ( = B - convert to liters)

4)      Back titration          final reading               ±0.02

                                initial reading             ±0.02

                                volume of HCl               ±0.        ( = C - convert to liters)

5)      Molarity of NaOH        0.         ± 0.        (from bottles) ( = D)

6)      Molarity of HCl         0.         ± 0.        (from bottles) ( = E)

7)      Total moles of base consumed (B x D) - (C x E ) =              ±       ( = F)

8)      % Aspirin = [½ x 180.15 x 100] x F / A =              ±

9)      Second sample: Repeat calculations in step 8              ±

10)     Third sample: Repeat calculations in step 8               ±

11)     Average % aspirin = (8 + 9 + 10) / 3 =


The percent of aspirin is            +/-        .



1) If a portion of your aspirin sample had broken down, how would that effect the total amount
of base used? What would the effect be on the percentage of aspirin in your sample?

2) Proprogate the error for the following:

        a) (1.51 ± 0.03) + (4.93 ± 0.05) + (2.47 ± 0.02)

        b) (1.51 ± 0.03) (4.93 ± 0.05) (2.47 ± 0.02)

3) In your own words describe the difference between random and method error. Include at least
one example of each. Your examples do not need to be from the aspirin experiment.

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