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Title: Indicators

Aim: to use indicators to determine the nature of unknown solution

Apparatus: test tube, dropper phenolphthalein, screened methyl orange, test tube rack, universal
indicator paper, solutions label M,N,P,Q,R These substances include ethanoic acid
sulphuric acid, sodium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide sodium chloride

Method: Five test tubes labelled M, N, P, Q and R were placed in on a test tube rack. An
approximate 1 cm3 sample of each substance was poured into the corresponding five
test-tube. A few drop of phenolphthalein was added to each substance, the test tube
swirled and the colour changes noted. The sample were discarded and the test-tubes
cleaned then new samples were then poured into the respective test-tubes and few drops
of screened methyl orange added to each sample. The colour changes were also noted.
After noting the observations the samples were discarded and new samples placed in the
respective test-tubes and universal indicator paper placed in each test-tube. The colour
change of the universal indicator paper was then put against a pH scale and the pH of the
substances recorded.


Table 1. Table Showing the Nature of Unknown Substances

Substance Observations Ph using Nature of substance

Phenolphthalein Screened methyl Orange indicator
M Light Magenta Lime green 11 Alkaline
N Pink Green-yellow 11 Alkaline
P Colourless Violet 1 Acidic
Q Colourless Peach 2 Acidic

R Light pink Dark green 8 Alkaline

Conclusion: it can be concluded that substances M, N and R are alkaline substance while P and
Q are Acidic substances.
Discussion: The pH, is a rough measure the acidity of a solution. The "p" stands for "potenz"
(this means the potential to be) and the "H" stands for Hydrogen. The pH of a
substance is determined by the amount of H+ an OH- it produces when it dissociates.
A substance is acidic if it releases more hydrogen ions than hydroxide ions when it
dissociates and alkaline if it is that there is more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions.
This means each substance has a specific pH in it natural state. The pH scale ranges
from 1 to 14, with 1 being most acidic and 14 being most alkaline while 7 is neutral
such as distilled water. Since the pH scale is logarithmic and as a result, each whole
pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example,
pH 4 is ten times more acidic than pH 5 and 100 times more acidic than pH 6..

A pH indicator is a halochromic chemical compound that when added in small

amounts to a solution produces a colour change specific to a certain pH value. The
pH indicators used in the above investigation are phenolphthalein, universal
indicator paper and screened methyl orange. Universal indicator paper is a pH
indicator composed of a blend of several compounds that exhibits several smooth
colour changes over a pH value range from 1-14 to indicate the acidity or basicity of
solutions. Phenolphthalein is colorless in acidic solution and pink in basic solution
(with the transition occurring around pH 9). Screened methyl oranges is an indicator
which becomes red in acid solutions and green in alkaline solutions.

Of the five unknown substances two are known to be acids based on their pH, so
substances P and Q can either be ethanoic acid or sulphuric acid, where P is the more
acidic. Since ethanoic acid has a formula of CH3COOH and dissociates to give
CH3COO- and H+ ions while sulphuric acid has a formula of H2SO4 dissociates to
give 2 H+ ions and a SO42- ion meaning that sulphuric acid releases twice as much
hydrogen ions than ethanoic acid making it the more acid substance P. this would
then mean that Q is ethanoic acid. For substances M, N and R, the weakest alkaline
is R with a pH of 8 and of M and N with the same pH, N would be the strongest
alkaline based on its colours change in the presence of phenolphthalein. From
researched knowledge, sodium hydroxide is the strongest alkali based on the amount
of OH- ions released; hence substance N would be sodium hydroxide. Of the two
remaining solutions, ammonium hydroxide is ammonia combined with water, giving
it a alkalinity significantly higher than that of water, so M would be ammonium
hydroxide leaving R to be sodium chloride.

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