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Cady Bright 
2.15.18

Background Information “Take Home Test” 


 
This lab served as an introduction to this semester’s unit on “Food, Cooking and Society,” which will 
examine the chemical makeup and processes of food, among other subjects. Our challenge was to make one 
change to the simplest calorimeter design to make the design more efficient, and create and conduct a 
procedure to determine said efficiency. This procedure consisted of utilising the calorimeter to measure the 
calories in different food items, and comparing our results to given results to determine how accurate they are. 
The final challenge was to measure the caloric density of an unknown food item using the most efficient 
calorimeter. By completing these challenges, we learned about calorimetry and determining the energy 
contained in food by making calculations based on changes in temperature and mass due to combustion, as 
well as how to identify which molecules the energy comes from via the 4-4-9 rule. We also learned about 
energy and the creation/destruction of chemical bonds so that we could differentiate between heat, thermal 
energy, and temperature. 
Energy is most commonly measured in joules, calories, and kilocalories (also known as Calories) - for 
example, the nutrition labels on containers of food usually use kilocalories. 1 kilocalorie is the amount of 
energy needed to increase one kilogram of water 1​°C. Just as it sounds, a kilocalorie is 1000 calories. Not as it 
sounds in any way, 1 calorie is 4.1868 joules, and 1 kilocalorie is 4186.8 joules. K
​ ilocalories, calories and joules 
are all measures of energy, which is different than heat, which is different than temperature. Heat is the 
transfer of energy from one object with higher thermal energy to an object with less thermal energy to reach a 
thermal equilibrium. Temperature, on the other hand, is the measure of average kinetic energy of particles in 
a system. Thermal energy is the kinetic energy of an object due to the movement of atoms, and can be used to 
break molecular bonds, or released to form them.  
Every substance has a different amount of energy in it. For example, nutritionists estimate that one 
gram of protein contains four kilocalories, one gram of carbohydrates contains four calories, and one gram of 
fats contain nine kilocalories. This is helpful in determining what biomolecules food is made up of. For 
example, by assuming that there was no protein in our samples (we were mainly testing junk food after all), 
we were able to utilise this rule in the investigation to create systems of equations where the solution was the 
grams of fats and carbohydrates. Our system of equations looked like this: 4c + 9f = C al and c + f = m  
where c is carbs, f is fats, Cal is total kilocalories as measured by a calorimeter, and m is mass of the object.  
A calorimeter is in charge of supplying the C al for the above equation. It measures the energy of a 
certain substance by combusting it. For example, professional grade calorimeters, called bomb calorimeters, 
completely combust dried substances in a chamber submerged in a well insulated container of water. The 
change in temperature of the water is measured, as well as the change in mass of the food item before and 
after combustion. The idea is that the energy that was contained by the item is transferred to the water. The 
water displays this transfer of energy as change in temperature, which accounts for the ΔT variable in the 
following equation to find energy ( Q ) in a substance: Q = m * c * ΔT . T​ he m in this equation refers to the 
mass of the water being heated by the combustion. The c accounts for the specific heat capacity of the water, 
which as mentioned above is 1 Cal/(1 kg of water * 1°C) or 1 cal/(1 g of water * 1°C) . The heat capacity 
of every substance is different, but it is always measured as the amount of energy required to raise one unit of 
the substance by one degree. By multiplying those three variables together, the thermal energy absorbed by 
the water can be determined. The unit that the specific heat capacity is measured in (kilocalories, calories, or 
joules) is the unit that the total thermal energy will be measured in.  
The combustion an example of a chemical reaction. Chemical reactions occur when the molecular 
structure of a substance is changed in some way. This process begins when enough activation energy, which is 
usually thermal, is added to the system so that reactant particles are moving so quickly that they break apart 
when they collide. That energy is then released into the surroundings when the particles form into products. 
There are two types of chemical reactions: exothermic and endothermic. Exothermic reactions have more 
energy on the reactants side than the products side - they release more energy into their surroundings than 
was added to the system in order to form products. Combustion is an example of an exothermic reaction 
because the reactants have more energy than the products. Digestion is also a form of an exothermic reaction 
because the body breaks down the molecules to extract energy from them. Endothermic reactions are the 
opposite - they have more energy on the products side than the reactants. They take absorb energy from their 
surroundings into the products. Melting snow is an example of an endothermic reaction because water (the 
product) has more energy than ice, and said energy was taken from the warmer surroundings. 
 
Chemical Potential Energy vs Reaction Process Diagram 
 
Exothermic  Endothermic 

   
 
Balanced Equation and Particulate Representation 
C 12 H 22 O 11 (s) + 12O 2 (g) → 12CO 2 (g) + 11H 2 O (l)  
In this equation, one glucose molecule (12 carbons, 22 hydrogens, and 11 oxygens) in a solid state and 
12 molecules of dioxygen in a gaseous state react to form 12 molecules of carbon dioxide in a gaseous state and 
11 molecules of water in a liquid state.