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Experiment 2: The Particulate Nature of Matter

During the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers speculated that all matter is
composed of tiny indivisible particles which they called atomos, meaning uncuttable.
Currently, these particles are known as atoms. In the early 1800s, the idea of atoms re-emerged
though the Atomic theory of John Dalton. The Atomic theory is based on several postulates: (1)
An element is made up of tiny indivisible particles called atoms. (2) Atoms of a certain element
are identical in size, shape, mass and all other properties but atoms of one element differ from
atoms of other elements. (3) Atoms can neither be created nor destroyed. Only reorganization of
the atoms are occurred in chemical reactions. (4) When atoms of different elements combine,
compounds are formed in a fixed, simple whole number ratio. (Brown, 2012)
Years after Dalton presented the atomic theory, several experiments were made to
understand the structure of an atom. J.J. Thomson discovered negatively charged particles
through his experiment of cathode-ray tubes. These negatively charged particles are called
electrons. Ernest Rutherford discovered the nuclear model of the atom through the experiment on
-particle bombardment of metal foil. The dense part of the atom where the positive charge can
be found is called the nucleus. The nucleus of an atom is assumed to contain a positive charge
equal to the negative charge and a neutral charge. The positively charged particles are called
protons. The neutral particles are called neutrons. (Zumdahl, 2014)
Atoms form bonds with other atoms. The resulting collection of atoms is a molecule.
Certain bonds are formed through ions. An atom or a group of atoms that contains a net positive
or negative charge is an ion. (Zumdahl, 2014)
The objective of the experiments is to understand the microscopic world of atoms
through observing the different reactions of elements and compounds. It aims to understand and
distinguish the difference between elements and compounds. It also aims to identify the different
particulates of matter: atoms, molecules and ions.

Three procedures were conducted in the experiment. The first procedure was an
observation on the reactions of an iodine crystal. In room temperature, the iodine crystal looked
like a small round dark gray grain. The iodine crystal was placed in a beaker covered with a
watch glass. Also, a piece of wet tissue paper was placed over the watch glass (Fig. 1). The

covered beaker was heated on a hot plate inside a fume hood. As the beaker was heated, the
iodine crystal sublimed into a purple colored gas (Fig. 2). After a while, the gas disappeared and
the beaker became empty (Fig. 3). After removing the beaker from the hot plate, tiny gray glitterlike crystals appeared on the watch glass and a yellow stain appeared on the tissue paper (Fig.4).

Wet tissue paper

Watch glass

Iodine crystal

Figure 1 Iodine crystal inside beaker covered with a watch glass and wet tissue paper in room

Figure 2 Sublimation of Iodine crystal into a purple colored gas

Figure 3 The purple

colored gas
disappeared. The beaker appeared to be empty on the hot plate inside the fume hood.

Yellow stain

Tiny gray crystals

Figure 4 Tiny gray crystals found on watch glass and yellow stain found on the tissue paper
The second procedure was an observation on the reactions of a few small blue grains of
copper sulfate (Fig. 5). The copper sulfate crystals were dropped into a test tube containing 3mL
water. The crystals sank and settled at the bottom of the test tube and the water appeared the
same (Fig. 6). The mixture was stirred by tapping the bottom part of the test tube with the index
finger (Fig. 7). A vortex was produced which turned the water and copper sulfate into a clear
blue solution (Fig. 8).

Figure 5 Copper sulfate


Copper sulfate crystals
Figure 6 Copper sulfate crystals settled at the bottom of test tube. Water showed no changes.

Figure 7 Copper sulfate and water were stirred by tapping bottom part of test tube

Figure 8 Clear blue solution produced after stirring the copper sulfate and water
The third procedure was an observation of reactions formed by a mixture of ammonia
solution with distilled water and a few drops of phenolphthalein indicator. 50mL of distilled
water and 5mL of 1M ammonia solution were mixed in a flask. The mixture appeared to be a
clear colorless liquid (Fig. 9). 1ml of the mixture was transferred into a test tube. A drop of
phenolphthalein indicator was added to the test tube which changed the colorless liquid into a red
violet solution (Fig. 10). The rest of the solution was placed in a transparent plastic bag. The
plastic bag was tied and placed in a beaker. Distilled water was added outside the plastic bag and
into the beaker. 3 drops of phenolphthalein indicator were added to the water inside the beaker.
At first, there were no changes with the solution in the plastic bag and the water outside the
plastic bag (Fig. 11.a). After a few minutes, a red violet color similar to the mixture in the test
tube appeared outside the plastic bag (Fig. 11.b).

Figure 9 Distilled water and ammonia solution mixed together in flask

Figure 10 Red violet solution produced when a drop of phenolphthalein indicator was added to the
water and ammonia solution in test tube

Red violet droplets

Water with
solution in
plastic bag
Water with


Figure 11 Inside the beaker are the ammonia solution with water inside the plastic bag and the
water with drops of phenolphthalein indicator surrounding the plastic bag.
(a) Phenolphthalein indicator was just added. (b) Few minutes after indicator was added.


The first procedure aimed to understand diffusive motion of atoms through observations
on the reactions of an iodine crystal. Diffusion is the process where particles of matter combine
due to continuous movement caused by the thermal agitation and movement from a high region
to a low concentration in dissolved substances (Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary, n.d.). First,
the iodine crystals were heated and were converted from a solid into a gas. The process where
matter converts from a solid into a gas state is sublimation (Changing States of Matter, n.d.).
Then, the gas turned into tiny crystals on the watch glass and the beaker became empty. The
purpose of the wet tissue paper is to help cool the watch glass. The tiny crystals on the watch
glass looked similar to the original iodine crystal however it scattered into many tiny metallic

The second procedure aimed to understand the solubility of an element in water through
observation on a few small blue grains of copper sulfate (CuSO4). Solubility is the process where
a substance, known as a solute, is dissolved in another substance, known as a solvent. The
mixture that resulted from combining the solute and the solvent is known as a solution
(Solubility Basics, n.d.). When dropped into water, copper sulfate settles at the bottom due to
its density. Also, the copper sulfate does not quickly dissolve in water unless a certain force is
made. Copper and water do not react with one another. However, when copper is combined with
another substance, a copper reaction would occur due to the reaction of the other substance
which forms a new compound (Copper Reaction, n.d). A compound, when dissolved in water,
dissociates to form ions. (Copper sulfate dissolves, 2011). In the experiment, when the copper
sulfate dissolved through stirring, the clear blue solution was the result of the copper sulfate
turning into separate copper and sulfate ions in an aqueous form.

The third procedure aimed to understand the permeability of matter through observations
on a mixture of ammonia solution and distilled water. Permeability is the capability of matter to
penetrate a material without affecting the material physically or chemically (Permeability,
n.d.). Ammonia solution mixed with water produced a clear colorless solution. However, when a
single drop of phenolphthalein indicator was added, the clear colorless solution turned red violet
in the test tube. Phenolphthalein is a commonly used indicator for titrations. If the solution is
colorless, the pH of the substance is below 7 which indicates the substance is an acid but if the
solution is red violet, the substance has a pH above 7 which indicates the substance is a base
(Acid-Base Indicators, n.d.). Since the substance turned red violet, the pH is above 7. The
water that surrounded the mixture in the plastic bag have not shown any changes but after a few
minutes red violet droplets appeared on the surface of the plastic bag. The red droplets that
surrounded the plastic bag have indicated that ammonia is permeable to the plastic used in the


Did the heating process change the nature of iodine? Is the iodine an element or a

In the periodic table of elements, Iodine is under the halogens group. Like other halogens,
iodine is an active element and usually combines with other elements to form a
compound and attain a stable state (Iodine, n.d.). The heating process converted the
iodine crystals from a solid crystal to a violet vapor through sublimation. Sublimation is
one of the common resolution techniques to separate elements. Nothing remained in the
beaker after the heating process. In conclusion, no other substance was combined with
the iodine crystal that cannot be sublimed. Therefore, iodine is an element.

At the start of the CuSO4 observation, were there still some portions of the mixture that
did not contain a blue coloration?

Yes. At the start of the observation, the copper sulfate has not totally dissolved and settled
at the bottom of the test tube. Also, the water did not show any changes in color. The
solution only obtained a blue coloration when it was stirred.

Will there be a color change if the CuSO4 remains unchanged? What particulate form did
the CuSO4 assume as the color change occurs?

There will still be a color change even if the copper sulfate crystals were not stirred.
Stirring only increased the speed of solubility because it made the solvent move and the
solute expose fresh portions. Molecules of liquid substances are in constant move so
dissolution would still take place even when not stirred but it would take more time.
Since copper sulfate is denser than water, gravity would also be a factor in the rate of
dissolution (Factors Affecting Solubility, n.d.).
A compound dissolved in water
separates and forms ions. The clear blue solution is a result of the copper and sulfate
turning into ions in an aqueous form.

Explain the color change of the distilled water outside the plastic bag.

An ammonia solution mixed with a drop of phenolphthalein indicator turned red violet in
color. Distilled water mixed with a phenolphthalein indicator would remain colorless. In
the experiment, water mixed with phenolphthalein indicator that surrounded the ammonia
solution in the plastic bag remained colorless but after a while red violet droplets
appeared on the surface of the plastic bag. The red droplets outside the plastic bag shows
the permeable nature of the ammonia solution through the plastic bag used.

Give the summary of Daltons Atomic theory. Do they all still hold true now? What are the
limitations of Daltons theory?

The atomic theory of Dalton gave a general idea of the inner structure of matter. It is
based on several postulates as stated in the introduction. However, new discoveries of
scientists have proved that the theory should be modified. The limitations in the atomic
theory of Dalton are: (Verma, 2010)
(1) Atoms are not indivisible. Atoms can be sub divided into sub-atomic particles:
protons, neutrons and electrons.
(2) Not all atoms of same elements have similar properties. Isotopes prove that atomic
mass and density of the same element may vary.
(3) Atoms of different elements do not differ in all aspects. Isobars prove that different
elements may have the same atomic mass.
(4) Atoms of an element can be changed into atoms of another element though a process
called transmutation.
(5) The ratio in which atoms unite may be fixed and integral but may not be simple.
(6) The mass of an atom can be changed energy according to Einsteins equation E=mc 2.
Thus, the atom is no longer indestructible.
(7) Daltons atomic theory failed to explain Lussacs law of combining volumes.
(8) The theory did not make any distinction between an atom and a molecule.
(9) The theory did not explain the nature of forces that bind together different atoms in a

The different experiments have given students a better view on how atoms react with one
another. Elements and compounds are difficult to distinguish through their physical state.
However, with the observations done on the experiment on iodine crystals, students learn that
through resolution techniques, elements of different properties can be separated. If a compound
that contains iodine was used in the experiment instead of the iodine crystal, the iodine would
separate from the combined element or elements and the element or elements would remain in
the beaker unless the element combined can also be sublimed. Since the iodine crystal left the
beaker empty after its sublimation, the experiment showed that the iodine crystal is an element.
Atoms, molecules and ions are what make up matter. Atoms when grouped together form
molecules. Atoms that form bonds through gaining or losing electrons form ions. Compounds
when mixed in water turns into ions. In the experiment on copper sulfate solution, students learn
how substances can break their bonds and form into a different substance. The copper sulfate
crystal can break its bonds as a compound and form into an aqueous ion solution. In the
experiment on ammonia solution, students learn that atoms can attract one another even when
there is something separating them. Properties of the molecules or atoms do not simply change.
The several procedures have shown a few properties that substances may obtain and could still
obtain whether it is a single element or it is a compound.


1. Acid-Base




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