The Oxidation of Ethanol Essay

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The Oxidation of Ethanol

Ethanol is a primary alcohol and can be oxidized to either an alderhyde or a carboxylic acid.



The purpose of this experiment is to oxidize ethanol and then to test the product to determine whether it has been oxidised to ethanal or oxidised to ethanoic acid.


We added 6cm³ of water to a pear-shaped flask, then added 2cm³ of concentrated sulphuric acid, and set up the apparatus as shown below, but with a stopper in place of the dropping funnel. We ensured that all the glass joints were greased.


We then had to make up a solution containing 5g of sodium
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There were many hazards in the context of this experiment in some of the chemicals we used that we needed to be aware of.

Using ethanol was a hazard as it was highly flammable above 13ºC and had a narcotic effect as a result of inhalation of the vapour. It is also dangerous with oxidising agents as uncontrollable reactions take place. To prepare for these hazards we needed to keep the solution away from the bunsen flame and wear goggles in case any "uncontrollable reactions" happened.

The sodium dichromate we used was very toxic and could cause cancer by inhalation and was harmful if swallowed or if contacted with skin sensitisation could occur. Ulceration also could have occurred on damaged skin. It is also dangerous with combustible materials as it forms explosive or vigorously burning mixtures. To prepare for this hazard we needed to be careful not to spill any and to wear lab coats and goggles.

Sulphuric acid that we used is very corrosive and can cause severe burns. It is dangerous with sodium as dangerous reactions could take place and also water as vigorous reactions occur when the concentrated acid is diluted. To prepare for this hazard we needed to again make sure we wore lab coats and goggles to protect our eyes, skin and clothing.

The sodium carbonate we used was an irritant on the eyes, skin and
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