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Aim: To investigate a range of metal carbonates and see if they
Written By Tauqir Sharif
When a metal is thermally decomposed the bond between the metal and
its carbonate (carbon and oxygen) is removed and the carbonate is
released as carbon dioxide.
Metal Carbonate = Metal Oxide + Carbon Dioxide
Malachite is an ore of copper. It is made mostly of copper carbonate.
It can be crushed into a green powder. If this powder is heated it
changes colour. A new substance has been made. The new substance is a
black powder. This is called copper oxide. The copper carbonate has
Copper oxide is made by thermal decomposition of copper carbonate.
Carbon dioxide is also made. The formula for this is:
Copper Carbonate = Copper Oxide + Carbon Dioxide
(CuCO3 = CuO + CO2)
The reactivity series determines how fast this reaction occurs. The
reactivity series is the order of metals in the periodic table. The
most reactive metals are placed at the top of the reactivity series.
The least reactive materials are placed at the bottom of the
reactivity series. From preliminary work that I have already done I
know that Potassium and sodium are the most reactive metals, and that
gold and platinum are the least reactive metals. To determine the
order of how reactive a metal is and where to place it in the
reactivity series you have to see how the metal reacts to:
Ø Oxygen (air)
When metals are heated they react with oxygen in the air. As the metal
is heated it reacts with the oxygen to form an oxide. The most
reactive metals such as potassium and sodium burn brightly when they
are heated. The less reactive metals do not burn brightly, and take
longer to form their oxide.
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all. These are the metals at the bottom of the reactivity series, such
as gold. Also the most reactive metals form their oxides much quicker
than the less reactive metals. This type of reaction is called an
oxidation reaction, because the metal gains oxygen.
The formula for the reaction with air is:
Metal + Oxygen = Metal Oxide
Metals can also be placed in water to see how they react. Again the
extremely reactive metals potassium and sodium react more vigorously
compared to the less reactive metals. In preliminary work that I have
already done when potassium is placed in cold water it immediately
begins to react vigorously with the water. The metal also sets on fire
as it darts around the water. Hydrogen is also given off by the
potassium as it reacts with the cold water. Calcium which is also a
very reactive metal does not react in the same way as potassium.
Calcium reacts slower as it is placed in cold water. The calcium falls
to the bottom of the beaker, whereas potassium floats on the top.
Bubbles rise from the metal, a signal that hydrogen is being given
off. Magnesium also reacts in this way. The fairly reactive metals
such as iron and zinc don't react with cold water. They do however
react with steam to give off hydrogen. Lead, copper and the least
reactive metals don't react with cold water or steam.
The formula for how a metal reacts with water (or steam) is:
Metal + Water = Metal Hydroxide (or oxide) + Hydrogen
The most violent reaction a metal can have occurs when the metal is
placed in dilute acid. This type of reaction is called a displacement
reaction. The metal takes the place of the hydrogen in the acid, which
means that hydrogen is given off. It is too dangerous to do this
reaction with Potassium, sodium and calcium, because these metals
violently explode when they are placed in dilute acid. The less
reactive metals such as Aluminium and Zinc can be placed in dilute
acid to see how they react because they don't react in a dangerous
way. The metal upon being placed in the acid does not explode or burn.
The metal gives off bubbles, which we already know is hydrogen.
Hydrogen and metals below this do not react with acid. Therefore gold
won't react with acid because it is below hydrogen in the reactivity
series, and therefore can't displace hydrogen.
The formula for how a metal reacts with dilute acid is:
Metal + Acid = Metal Salt + Hydrogen
The hydrogen that is given off in the above reactions can be
identified by capturing the hydrogen in a test tube. Having done this
you can then place a glowing splint inside the test tube. A pop sound
can be heard if hydrogen is present in the test tube.
The reactivity series was determined by how all of the metals react to
the air, water and dilute acid. The most reactive metals were placed
at the top of the reactivity series, the least reactive metals were
placed at the bottom of the reactivity series.
Below is the reactivity series, showing the metals symbol and which
group each metal belongs to:
The periodic table also shows which groups the metals belong to. The
enclosed periodic table displays metals and non-metals.
The metals at the top of the reactivity series have a tight bond with
their carbonates. Their atoms are stable, and these atoms become more
stable the higher in the reactivity series you go. Potassium and the
other very reactive metals have a very tight hold on their carbonates.
Therefore it will be extremely hard to break the bond the metal has
with its carbonate. It will take longer to thermally decompose a metal
which is higher up the reactivity series because the metals higher up
have a tight hold on their carbonates, meaning it will take a longer
time to break their bonds. When these metals are thermally decomposed
it happens very slowly.
The metals at the bottom of the reactivity series have loose bonds
with their carbonates. This means they have less than 8 electrons on
their outer shell. They therefore have to either loose the electrons
on the outer shell (This usually happens if there is an electron on
the outer shell). The atoms can also share some of their electrons
with another atom to become stable. Therefore the metals at the bottom
of the reactivity series are less stable than the metals at the top of
the reactivity series. If the metal is unstable its bond with the
carbonate will be weak. This will make it easier to be thermally
decomposed. The metal will also thermally decompose quicker, because
the bond can be easily broken.
The carbonates that I will be testing in this investigation are:
Ø Zinc Carbonate
Ø Copper Carbonate
Ø Manganese Carbonate
Ø Potassium Carbonate
Ø Sodium Carbonate
I am going to use these carbonates as these are what have been
supplied to me by my school.
These are a list of factors which affect thermal decomposition.
Ø Time in seconds
In order to create a fair test I will have to choose one factor to
investigate. I have decided to change the carbonates in the
investigation. This is because when a metal carbonate is thermally
decomposed it creates carbon dioxide as a sub product. The way that I
could test if carbon dioxide is present is to pass the gas through
lime water; if it goes milky I will know carbon dioxide has been
produced. Although this is a good way of checking if carbon dioxide is
present it is totally irrelevant in my experiment. So instead of
checking if carbon dioxide is present I can pass the gas through a
measuring cylinder filled with water. This will give me an indication
of how much carbon dioxide is produced and from this I can work out
which metal carbonate is the most easily thermally decomposed.
To make this investigation is a fair test I will have to:
Ø Use the sum of all the elements atomic mass numbers within a metal
Ø Use the same size cylinder (250mm)
Ø Keep the Bunsen burner on the same flame.
Ø Use the same type of Bunsen burner.
Ø Keep the Bunsen burner at the same distance.
Ø Use the same size test tube
Ø Use a fresh test tube each time
For mass I will have to use a different scale of measure. This is
because all of the different metal carbonates which I am to
investigate have different atomic mass numbers. In order to solve this
problem I will work out what the mass for each of the metal carbonates
is. This will keep my test fair as I will always be testing the carbon
dioxide which is produced for the atomic mass of each metal carbonate.
In order to do this I will be looking at a copy of the periodic table
and then looking at the elements which are within each metal
carbonate. I will take the atomic mass number of each of the elements
in the metal carbonate and add them up this will give me the mass for
each metal carbonate. For example if I want to work out how much Zinc
carbonate to use in my experiment I just have to look at Zinc
carbonates formula which is ZnCO3 from this I can work out that Zinc
carbonate contains 1 Zinc molecule, 1 Carbon molecule and 3 Oxygen
molecules. If I look at the periodic table it shows me that the atomic
mass numbers for Zinc, Carbon and oxygen are 65, 12 and 16. If I add
65 to 12 I end up with 77. As there are 3 Oxygen molecules in Zinc
carbonate I add 16 (the atomic mass number for oxygen) not once but 3
times. Resulting in the atomic mass number for Zinc Carbonate to be
125g but this amount is too much for me to use in my experiment so I
will use 1/100 of the atomic mass number. I will do this by dividing
the atomic mass number for Zinc Carbonate by 100. So instead of using
125gms I will use 1.25gms.
I have constructed a table below which clearly shows the way in which
I have calculated the mass for each carbonate that I am to use:
Atomic mass Number
Divide by 100
65 + 12 +
63.5 + 12+
55 + 12 +
39 × 2
(39×2) + 12 +
(23× 2) + 12 +
Firstly I predict that the metal carbonate that will thermally
decompose the fastest will be Copper Carbonate. This is because copper
is one of the lowest metals in the reactivity series. Silver, gold and
platinum are all lower than copper in the reactivity series but I have
not included them in my experiment as I have not been supplied with
them. I have predicted this because this means that copper carbonates
atoms are unstable, and that it does not have a strong hold on its
carbonates. Therefore as soon as it is heated this hold copper has on
its carbonate is broken easily and carbon dioxide is given off.
Secondly I predict that Potassium Carbonate will be the hardest
carbonate to thermally decompose. I predict this because Potassium is
the hi8ghest in the reactivity series. From looking at my research I
know that the metals near to the top of the reactivity series have a
tight hold on their carbonates. As the carbonate is heated it will
take longer for carbon dioxide to be given off because the bond that
Potassium has with its carbonate is very strong. Potassium will give
off the least amount of carbon dioxide.
This is my prediction for the order in which the carbonates will
thermally decompose. I have put the fastest first at the top of the
1. Copper Carbonate
2. Zinc Carbonate
3. Sodium Carbonate
4. Potassium Carbonate
I have not predicted where Manganese Carbonate will thermally
decompose as I do not know where it is in the reactivity series. My
prediction of the order is based on the fact that the higher up the
metal is in the reactivity series the stronger the bond it has with
its carbonate. Resulting in my order being the reverse of the
reactivity series. So this will mean that the carbonate that thermally
decomposes the fastest will give off the most Carbon dioxide.
Plan of Experiment:
I am now going to talk about the apparatus which is needed to perform
my investigation after I have constructed a list. I will then also
draw a diagram of the equipment setup which will show how I will carry
out the experiment. A list of apparatus is on the next page.
1. Measuring Cylinder
3. Conical flask
6. Weighing machine
9. 5 Test tubes
10. Clamp and stand
11. Bunsen burner
12. Heatproof mat
Diagram of equipment setup:
Ø First I will set up the apparatus.
Ø Check that all of the apparatus if working and is safe to use.
Ø Turn on the gas and light the Bunsen burner.
Ø Weight the set amount of the carbonate I am testing.
Ø Place it in the test tube.
Ø Put the test tube in the clamp.
Ø Fill the bowl ¾ of the way up with water.
Ø Fill the cylinder to the top with water, and turn it upside down in
the water filled bowl.
Ø Place the rubber tube inside the cylinder
Ø Heat the carbonate, and start the stop clock at the same time as you
Ø Take a reading every ten seconds.
Ø Stop after 60 seconds.
Ø Repeat the experiment for all the other carbonates.
Ø Put results in a graph and find and analyze my results.
To make sure that this investigation runs smoothly and me and my
fellow classmates are kept out of danger I will follow the following
Ø When the Bunsen burner is not being used it should be put on the
yellow flame. This ensures that the flame can be seen and it is cooler
than the blue flame.
Ø If a test tube cracks or melts the Bunsen burner should be turned
off and the experiment should be stopped.
Ø Always wear safety goggles.
Ø If gas is smelt then all of the gas taps are to be turned off
Ø The delivery tube is to be pulled out of the measuring cylinder
before the Bunsen burner is turned off.
This table shows that copper carbonate thermally decomposed the
fastest and Sodium did not thermally decompose at all. In order to
analyze my results further I have decided to draw up a line graph
showing my results.
My first prediction that Copper Carbonate would be the fastest to
thermally decompose was correct. Copper Carbonate was the hardest to
thermally decompose, because as this metal is near to the bottom of
the reactivity series it has a weak bond with its carbonates. The
investigation shows that unreactive metals give off a lot of carbon
dioxide when their carbonate is heated. This is because all of the
bonds that Copper has with its carbonates are broken meaning that lots
of carbon dioxide is given off.
On the graph the line which represents Copper Carbonate has the
steepest curve. This indicates that Copper Carbonate created the most
Carbon dioxide and thermally decomposed the quickest.
In comparison to the above my prediction of the metal that would
thermally decompose the slowest was incorrect. I predicted that
Potassium would decompose the slowest, releasing the least Carbon
dioxide. I predicted this because Potassium was the highest metal in
the reactivity series that I used. However, the metal carbonate that
thermally decomposed the slowest releasing the least carbon dioxide
was Sodium Carbonate. Potassium was nonetheless very close behind
Sodium. I didn't expect Sodium to thermally decompose the slowest
because Potassium was above it in the reactivity series.
In conclusion to my experiment I believe that the lower down a metal
is in the reactivity series the easier it is to thermally decompose
although Sodium did not fit this pattern.
I think that the Sodium being the metal which thermally decomposed the
slowest was an anomalous result. I think this because Sodium was lower
than Potassium in the reactivity series. The volume of Carbon Dioxide
that was given off shouldn't have been as low. This could be an
anomalous result because the Sodium Carbonate was contaminated with a
metal higher up in the reactivity series.
If I had more time I would have tested each carbonate three times and
then I could have produced an average. From this average I could have
then produced another graph and compared the two. This would have
helped me pick out any anomalous results easily.
If I could have used a bigger bowl I would have because the one that
was used was too small. It was very difficult to get my hand
underneath the cylinder and place the tube inside it.
The time intervals should have been more varied as it was very hard to
keep reading the level of water after every ten seconds because it was
hard to judge where the water level was.
Overall I don't think my results were as accurate as I did not repeat
any of my tests so any of my results could have been anomalies.
If I could do this investigation again I would:
Ø Do more repetitions
Ø Use a bigger Bowl
Ø Have larger time intervals for measuring the amount of Carbon