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A MODIFICATION OF THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE OSTWALD PROCESS

SAUL S. HAUBEN and RICHARD 8. SfEGEL


Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn, New York
IN A former issue of THIS JOURNAL,^ we described
a simple demonstration of the oxidation of ammonia
to nitric acid. Since then we have noticed two defects
in this method. It has been difficult to control the
amount of ammonia used and the asbestos carrier of
the catalyst tended t o pack tightly, thus obstructing
the free flow of gas. We have modified the apparatus
as indicated below and as shown in the diagram.
Air is drawn through a wide-mouth bottle containing
a small quantity of 1 : 1 ammonium hydroxide solu-
tion. Note that the tubing does not extend into the
solution. In this manner, ammonia and air in the
proper proportions are drawn through the catalyst
n-hich has been strongly heated in a glass tube for about
two minutes. Suction is supplied by a water aspirator.
Instead of asbestos fibers as a carrier for the platinum
' H A ~ E N , S. S., AND R. 8. SIEOEL, J. CHEM. EDUC., 20, 166
1943).
catalyst, broken unglazed tile is used, 15 to 20 mesh.
The tile is soaked for several hours in chloroplatinic
acid prepared as previously directed.' It is then
ignited in the same manner.
After leaving the catalyst tube the air-ammonia
mixture is drawn into a one-liter Florence flask. When
the brown fumes of nitrogen dioxide appear in the
flask, the flame should be removed. The catalyst
usually begins t o glow, indicating the exothermic na-
ture of the reaction. I t is suggested that a wide-mouth
bottle containing some water be added between the
Florence flask and the aspirator, so that the nitrogen
dioxide after being seen is absorbed in the water to
form the nitric acid. It is also advisable, at the com-
pletion of the demonstration, to heat the catalyst
strongly for a few minutes while drawing air through.
This will remove any adsorbed gases, thus preparing
the way for the next demonstration.