The Molecular Formula of Succinic Acid

The Molecular Formula of Succinic Acid

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The Molecular Formula of Succinic Acid

The relative formula mass is the mass of 1 molecule of succinic acid
compared with 1/12th of the mass of an atom of carbon-12. This is
obtained by adding together the relative atomic masses of the atoms
within the molecule according to its written formula. However we do
not know the exact formula:

HOOC(CH )nCOOH Where n is a whole number

between 1 and 4

So to calculate the relative formula mass I must use the formula m = n
×Mr and rearrange it to make Mr the subject Mr = m


However I do not know the number of moles for a given mass. I can
calculate this by preparing a standard solution of the acid and
performing a titration experiment.

Firstly I would like to calculate a likely value of the relative
formula mass given the information above.

Suppose n = 3 then HOOC(CH ) COOH and Mr = 1+(2 x

= 132

To perform the titration I have chosen to use equal concentrations of
acid and alkali at 0.1mols/dm³. This is a low concentration as the
more concentrated the solution, the more rapidly the reaction takes
place. This can be explained by the collision theory as increasing the
concentration of the reactants increases the number of particles
resulting in an increased number of collisions. If the reaction takes
place too rapidly then it will be difficult to identify the exact
point at which the alkali is neutralised and the results will become
less accurate.

To prepare my acid solution I must dissolve an accurately weighed
amount of anhydrous succinic acid to 250cm³/0.25dm³ of water to
achieve a concentration of 0.1mols/dm³. What mass of acid is required
to achieve this concentration?

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n = c × v which is 0.1 × 0.25 = 0.025 moles

The mass of 0.025 moles = n × Mr which is 0.025 × 132 = 3.3g

This is obviously not an accurate mass as I do not know the real Mr
but this is an estimate so that the reaction occurs at a suitable

I can now continue with the preparation-

Equipment requirements include:

* Distilled water in wash bottle

* Small funnel

* Weighing boat

* Spatula

* Standard (250cm³) graduated flask

* Beaker

Firstly the graduated flask and beaker must be rinsed with distilled
water to prevent impurities in the acid solution which would affect
the results.

Accurately weigh out 3.3g succinic acid.

Initially dissolve the acid in a minimum amount of distilled water in
a beaker, stirring with a glass rod.

Transfer all the acid into the graduated flask. The best way to ensure
all is transferred is to place the funnel on top of the flask and wash
the solution in with a jet of distilled water from the wash bottle.

Continue to add distilled water up to the 250cm³ mark. The base of the
meniscus should be level with the mark to achieve the maximum accuracy
of results.

Once this has been completed I can proceed with the titration. In this
experiment I will use a solution of Sodium Hydroxide to standardise my
solution of Succinic acid.

Equipment requirements include:

· Distilled water wash bottle

· Sodium Hydroxide (0.1mols/dm³)

· Succinic acid (0.1mols/dm³ approx.)

· Phenolphalein indicator

· Burette (50cm³) and stand

· Conical flask (250cm³)

· Pipette (25cm³) and filler

· Small beaker and funnel

It is a good idea to perform a rough titration to get an idea of where
the end point will be.

Firstly all the equipment must be thoroughly rinsed with distilled
water to minimise the risk of impurities affecting the reaction.

Then fill the burette with acid up to the 0 mark. This should be done
below your head for example on a stool to prevent an accident.

Pipette 25cm³ of the sodium hydroxide solution into the conical flask
and add two drops of indicator.

Begin to slowly add the acid, continually swirling the mixture. As you
near the end point add the acid drop wise so you know exactly when the
reaction is complete and consequently gain more accurate results.

When the whole solution has just turned completely pink then the
reaction is complete and no more acid should be added.

Record the volume of acid that has been added clearly in a table.

Repeat the experiment until you obtain at least two results that are
within 0.1cm³ of each other.

In 25cm³/0.025dm³ of Sodium Hydroxide solution of concentration 0.1M
the number of moles is:

n = c × v = 0.1 × 0.025 = 0.0025 moles

The equation

[IMAGE] H A + 2NaOH Na
A + 2H O

Tells us that the acid and alkali react in a 1:2 ratio

So if the NaOH solution containing 0.0025 moles was neutralised by
0.0236dm³ of the acid then this volume of acid must have contained
0.0025 = 0.00125 moles


So the real concentration of the acid solution = n = 0.00125 =

v 0.0236

If 0.25 dm³ succinic acid solution contains 3.3g succinic acid then
3.3g contains

n = c × v = 0.053 × 0.25 = 0.0133 moles.

Therefore Mr = m = 3.3 = 248

n 0.0133

Molecular formula – what is n ?

1 + 16 + 16 + 12 +12 + 16 + 16 +1 = 90

All the molecules of (CH )n = 248 – 90 = 158

One molecule of (CH )n = 12 + 2 = 14

No. of molecules of (CH )n = 158 ÷ 14 = 11.29

So the formula = HOOC(CH ) COOH

Accuracy and limitations of equipment

There are limitations to the apparatus and methods I have used.
Liquids may remain ‘stuck’ to the sides of tubes, beakers and other
glass apparatus. It is also impossible to remove all the solid from
one container when transferring it to another. Completion of the
neutralisation reaction is detected by a colour change seen by the
human eye. The reaction is complete when the whole solution JUST turns
pink. It is very difficult to identify this exact point by this method
so results can not be recorded to a very accurate degree – it would be
pointless measuring to 5 d.p. if your method of recording is not that
reliable. Errors can occur with measurements using certain apparatus,
the following are the maximum errors you may incur:

1dm³ standard flask ± 0.80 cm³

250cm³ standard flask ± 0.30cm³

25cm³ pipette ± 0.06 cm³

50cm³ burette ± 0.10cm³

The value is the difference between two points for example using a
250cm³ flask you might measure to 250.1cm³ or 249.8cm³, a difference
of 0.30cm³.

Potential hazards and safety precautions

Experiments involving acids and alkalis are always dangerous as both
are corrosive but we can minimize the risks by following safety

* Always wear safety goggles when near chemicals

* Wear gloves when handling vessels containing acids or alkalis as
both are corrosive, the severity of which depends on the
concentration of the acid/alkali

* When filling the burette bring it to below eye level to eliminate
the risk of tipping acid on your head

* Never ‘suck up’ a solution when filling a pipette

* Don’t low the last drop out of the pipette, the alkali it contains
in this experiment is very harmful

* Don’t eat or drink around areas where acids or alkalis have been
used. Don’t eat after handling a vessel containing an acid or
alkali without first washing your hands.
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