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Thread: Identifying chemicals and compunds

  1. #1 Identifying chemicals and compunds 
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    Hello. I'm afraid I'm not a chemist. Is it possible to identify an anonymous substance in a high school chemistry lab using the equipment available? For example, the students are given an unlabeled blue powder and asked to identify it. How would one go about this, and what would the likely answers be?

    Is this too complex for a school lab? If so, is there a similar experiment one could ask students to do?

    Terry


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  3. #2 Re: Identifying chemicals and compunds 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry22
    Hello. I'm afraid I'm not a chemist. Is it possible to identify an anonymous substance in a high school chemistry lab using the equipment available? For example, the students are given an unlabeled blue powder and asked to identify it. How would one go about this, and what would the likely answers be?

    Is this too complex for a school lab? If so, is there a similar experiment one could ask students to do?

    Terry
    Hello,

    Do you have any chemicals whatsoever and/or a person with experience in chemistry that can mix up common solutions of chemicals typically utilized to identify compounds?

    If you do there are plenty of high school chemistry lab manuals available with easy procedures to follow...

    Otherwise it will be difficult for students to identify an unknown compound unless we're talking sugar, salt, and orange juice - stuff like that - using a PH meter or paper, known salts and precipitates, voltmeter etc...
    other than that you're kinda sol without some background or a good manual to teach from - further... I'm not really sure what they'll learn from this...

    let me know if you need links to any manuals etc...
    hope this helps...
    good luck.


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  4. #3  
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    Thanks for your reply.

    I must confess the question is entirely hypothetical. I have no intention of reproducing this experiment. I'm writing a story in which the protagonist (a student) discovers a strange compound (powder or solid or whatever -- the colour isn't so important) and he/she must quickly identify it. I'm ignorant when it comes to chemistry, so I was hoping that maybe there are common, simple experiments that students typically attempt at high-school that might make this scenario convincing. I don't want to create a situation that's unbelievable, or wander into the realms of science fiction. I was just wondering whether there are any (probably safe, possibly non-toxic) colourful powders or compounds that are easily identifiable by one or two very simple procedures?

    Thanks again.
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  5. #4 Re: Identifying chemicals and compunds 
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemist
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry22
    Hello. I'm afraid I'm not a chemist. Is it possible to identify an anonymous substance in a high school chemistry lab using the equipment available? For example, the students are given an unlabeled blue powder and asked to identify it. How would one go about this, and what would the likely answers be?

    Is this too complex for a school lab? If so, is there a similar experiment one could ask students to do?

    Terry
    Hello,

    Do you have any chemicals whatsoever and/or a person with experience in chemistry that can mix up common solutions of chemicals typically utilized to identify compounds?

    If you do there are plenty of high school chemistry lab manuals available with easy procedures to follow...

    Otherwise it will be difficult for students to identify an unknown compound unless we're talking sugar, salt, and orange juice - stuff like that - using a PH meter or paper, known salts and precipitates, voltmeter etc...
    other than that you're kinda sol without some background or a good manual to teach from - further... I'm not really sure what they'll learn from this...

    let me know if you need links to any manuals etc...
    hope this helps...
    good luck.
    Do you happen know of a good link to a high school level cracking experiment (converting alkanes to alkenes)? Perhaps one where a bunsen burner is held below a tube to heat the substance inside (I think the this heated tube would be somehow connected to another tube(s).)
    I've been unable to source a good demonstration that doesn't involve overly complex apparatus. (I'm looking for one that involves a stand, some tubes, a bunsen burner and test tube holder - but i'm not certain of the exact details) - a fairly standard high school classroom experiment.

    Thank you
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  6. #5  
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    Then the answer is NO, there are thousands of blue compounds. HS lab only has some very basic equipment.
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  7. #6  
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    How about Blootherstonium?

    It doesn't have to be blue. It can be any hue. Is there a coloured powder that can be only one of a few things?
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  8. #7  
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    Chrome chloride only bright PURPLE stuff I know of.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry22
    How about Blootherstonium?

    It doesn't have to be blue. It can be any hue. Is there a coloured powder that can be only one of a few things?
    Hello a really common unknown in freshman chemistry lab would be copper chloride - it's a bright blue and you can figure it out by solubility.... so if you check out a high school lab manual there should be a procedure for this compound there....

    hope this helps..
    good luck.
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  10. #9 Re: Identifying chemicals and compunds 
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    Quote Originally Posted by soa
    Do you happen know of a good link to a high school level cracking experiment (converting alkanes to alkenes)? Perhaps one where a bunsen burner is held below a tube to heat the substance inside (I think the this heated tube would be somehow connected to another tube(s).)
    I've been unable to source a good demonstration that doesn't involve overly complex apparatus. (I'm looking for one that involves a stand, some tubes, a bunsen burner and test tube holder - but i'm not certain of the exact details) - a fairly standard high school classroom experiment.

    Thank you
    I'm afraid you're not going to be able to do what you describe without utilizing complex apparati... The energy required to take an alkane to an alkene is pretty substantial... typically this only done in engineering labs and at oil refineries....
    There is no way you're getting the bunsen burner to the required temperature, especially without vacuum etc....

    Sorry...
    hope this helps...
    good luck...

    p.s. If you want to do some kind of thermal lab you might consider distilling a mixture of hexanes and ethylacetate etc... you can find all kinds of procedures in an experimental organic lab manual for this with short path and fractional distillation set ups...
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  11. #10  
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    This is BS at this point, change the plot!
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