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Tyrone Li

82-6
5-2-08

The Effect of Light on the Decomposition of Hydrogen Peroxide

I. INTRODUCTION
The idea of balancing equations is related to this experiment because a
titration is used to balance an equation. A titration is a method to measure the
amounts of liquids that are used in a reaction (“The Titration Project”). Hydrogen
peroxide, or H2O2, is a water-like liquid mainly used for cleansing
(www.infoplease.com).
The objective of this experiment is to test an independent variable that is
likely to affect the amount of H2O2 in the commercial solution. The independent
variables are three percent hydrogen peroxide in different states of
decomposition, such as decomposing from direct sunlight for about fifteen
minutes, and decomposing from direct sunlight for twenty-four hours. The
dependent variable is the amount of KMnO4, or potassium permanganate needed
to destroy the H2O2 in the mixture. This can be measured by using a titration with
a burette filled with potassium permanganate. Some important controlled
variables are the amount of H2SO4 used in each mixture to make the mixture react
with KmnO4 which is ten milliliters, another significant controlled variable is the
amount of the H2O2 solution to use in each trial which is six milliliters, another
important controlled variable is the location of the H2O2 solution when it was
placed outside to help it decompose as an experimental variable.
A “titration” is a “common laboratory method that is used to quantify the
amounts of liquids that are used in a reaction...... Titrations can also be used for
reactions involving a change of oxidation state for transition metal elements.”
(“The Titrations Project”). “free radicals” are highly reactive molecules (“The
Titration Project”). Hydrogen peroxide is able to oxidize many substances
(web1.caryacademy.org) and that it is a weak acid mostly used as a household
cleaner (www.infoplease.com). Hydrogen peroxide is different from water mostly
by a single bond between two oxygen atoms in H2O2 that is very weak, therefore
easily breakable into free radicals that are very reactive (“The Titration Project”).
The independent variable, or light, caused the hydrogen peroxide to decompose
faster partly because of the fact that sunlight contains ultraviolet light
(h2o2.com).
If the three percent hydrogen peroxide were exposed to direct sunlight then
it would make the solution decompose the most because direct sunlight contains
ultraviolet rays which help the solution decompose. It was learned that light
makes H2O2 decompose faster than without light (h2o2.com).
From this experiment it can be learned how to use a titration. A future
experiment that might come of this is to use potatoes, yeast, or another catalyst
to help the hydrogen peroxide decompose and compare it to the data from this
experiment containing light.

II. VARIABLES
Experimental Variable: H2O2 under direct sunlight for fifteen minutes,
H2O2 under direct sunlight for twenty-four hours.
Dependent Variable: Amount of KmnO4 needed to destroy the H2O2 in the
mixture.
Controlled Variables: Ten milliliters of H2SO4 used in each trial, Six
milliliters of H2O2 used in each trial, and the location of every trial exposed to
sunlight is on the staircase behind the science lab.
Control Run: Regular three percent hydrogen peroxide straight from the
bottle.
III.HYPOTHESIS
If the three percent hydrogen peroxide were exposed to direct sunlight then it
would make the solution decompose the most because direct sunlight
contains ultraviolet rays which help the solution decompose.

IV.MATERIALS
Flasks
3% H2O2 solution
3 M H2SO4
Burette with stand
0.1 M KmnO4
Eyedropper
Saran wrap

V. PROCEDURE
Procedure to create each test group:
1)a. Use regular three percent hydrogen peroxide straight from the bottle
for the control group.
2)a. Take a flask and fill it with thirty milliliters of hydrogen peroxide.
2)b. Cover the flask with a light layer of Saran wrap and place it outside
under direct sunlight for fifteen minutes.
3)a. Take a flask and fill it with thirty milliliters of hydrogen peroxide.
3)b. Cover the flask with a light layer of Saran wrap and place it outside
under direct sunlight for twenty-four hours.
Procedure to test each sample
1) Using a graduated cylinder, add 6 ml of the H2O2 solution to a flask.
2) Using a graduated cylinder, add 10 ml of concentrated H2SO4 (3 M) to the H2O2
solution.
3) Fill the burette with the 0.1 M KMnO4 solution using the funnel.
4) Record the initial burette reading.
5) Place the flask under the spout of the burette.
6) Slowly add the KMnO4 solution to the flask while swirling the flask by moving
your hand in a circular motion. (Since O2 gas is produced in the reaction, the
mixture will bubble when the KMnO4 is added.)
7) As the bubbling begins to subside and the mixture begins to change briefly to
a light pink color, begin adding the KMnO4 solution more slowly and waiting
between additions of KMnO4 for the mixture to return to being colorless.
8) Once the solution turns pink and remains pink for 30 seconds, stop adding
the KMnO4 solution.
9) Record the final burette reading, and calculate the amount of KMnO4 solution
used in the titration.

VI. RESULTS
Table 1: The Effect of Light on the Decomposition of Hydrogen Peroxide
Variable Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average Standard
Deviation
Control: 3% 23ml 21ml 22ml 22ml 0.816496580927
H2O2 726
H2O2 15 min 22.5ml 26ml 25ml 24.5ml 1.699673171197
under sunlight 6023
H2O2 24 hours 35.5ml 21.5ml 21.5ml 26.17ml 6.599663291074
under sunlight 445
Graph 1: The Average Effect of Light on the Decomposition of Hydrogen

30
27.5
Milliliters of KMnO4 Required

25
22.5
20
17.5
15
12.5
10
7.5
5
2.5
0
Control: 3% H2O2 H2O2 15 min under H2O2 24 hours
sunlight under sunlight
Variable

Table 2: The Average Effect of Light on the Decomposition of Hydrogen

Variable Average Standard Deviation


Control: 3% H2O2 22ml 0.816496580927726
H2O2 15 min under 24.5ml 1.6996731711976023
sunlight
H2O2 24 hours 26.17ml
under sunlight 6.599663291074445

VII.CONCLUSION
A. Analysis
The hypothesis set forth in this experiment was if the three percent
hydrogen peroxide were exposed to direct sunlight then it would make the
solution decompose the most because direct sunlight contains ultraviolet rays
which help the solution decompose. The hypothesis was not supported because
the data for each independent variable overlapped so there was not a big enough
difference between some of the independent variables.
Graph 1 illustrates that, on average, the hydrogen peroxide left under
sunlight for twenty-four hours needed more KmnO4 to completely decompose the
hydrogen peroxide than the other two groups. These results indicate that the
amount of KmnO4 needed to decompose the hydrogen peroxide left under
sunlight for twenty-four hours had a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide
than regular three percent hydrogen peroxide. One way of explaining the data is
that the sunlight made the water in the diluted hydrogen peroxide solution
evaporate despite the Saran wrap which increased the concentration of hydrogen
peroxide. Another way of explaining the the data is that there were too many
clouds in the sky on certain days that affected the results. Previous experience
suggests that the Saran wrap did not completely protect the solution from
evaporation.
As a result of this experiment, one question that arose was how much
sunlight is required to completely decompose the hydrogen peroxide? Another
question was if the Saran wrap protected the solution from evaporation or not? If
this experiment were repeated then there would be additional variables with and
without Saran wrap to test its effect on the amount of KMnO4 required to
completely decompose the hydrogen peroxide.

B. Assumptions and Errors


It was assumed that the amount of sunlight on any given day was basically
the same. It was also assumed that the original three percent hydrogen peroxide
had not decomposed enough to affect the collected data.
One source of error was that the water on the Saran wrap was thrown out.
This could have affected the experiment by increasing the concentration of
hydrogen peroxide in the solution. In order to eliminate this source of error, the
Saran wrap should be left on for about five hours after being taken out of the
sunlight to allow the water that collected on the Saran wrap to flow down into the
solution.
Another source of error was that when conducting the titration the amount
of KMnO4 used might have been more than what was actually required. This
could have affected the experiment by changing the data by several milliliters. In
order to eliminate this source of error, the KMnO4 should be slowly dripped into
the hydrogen peroxide solution.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

 "Hydrogen Peroxide." Infoplease.Com. The Columbia Electronic


Encyclopedia. 25 Apr.-May 2008
<http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0824724.html>.
 "Hydrogen Peroxide Online." US Peroxide. US Peroxide. 25 Apr.-May 2008
<http://h2o2.com/>.
 Lin, Justin. "Hydrogen Peroxide." Hydrogen Peroxide Home. 30 Apr. 2000. 25
Apr.-May 2008
<http://web1.caryacademy.org/chemistry/rushin/StudentProjects/Compound
WebSites/2000/HydrogenPeroxide/home.htm>
 The Titration Project. Buckingham Browne and Nichols School, 2008.

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