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AP Chemistry Lab Determining the Percent Copper in Brass

Brass is a generic term for alloys of copper and zinc. In addition to these metals, brass may also contain small amounts of iron, lead,
aluminum, and tin. More than 300 different brass alloys are known, with uses ranging from decorative hardware to architectural
construction, musical instruments, and electrical switches. The amount of copper in brass affects its color, hardness, ductility, strength,
conductivity, corrosiveness, etc. Visible spectroscopy provides a simple tool for determining the percent copper in brass.
Spectroscopy involves the interaction of electromagnetic radiation and matter. A visible spectrophotometer is used to measure the
absorption of visible light through a solution it is particularly helpful with transition metals which have characteristic and beautiful
colors. In general, absorbance is proportional to concentration, a concept that is expressed mathematically through Beers Law.
A = abc
In the equation above, A is absorbance, c is concentration in molarity, b is the path length (width of the solutions container), and a is
known as the molar absorptivity coefficient.
Beers law is helpful to determine the unknown concentration of a metal ion in solution if absorbance is measured. Plotting
absorbance vs. concentration produces a calibration curve a straight line that passes through the origin.

To use the following concepts to determine the percent copper in brass:
A serial dilution
Beers Law
Visible spectroscopy
Prelab Questions
1. Dissolving brass requires an oxidizing acid such as nitric acid. Nitrogen dioxide is produced as a byproduct in this reaction. Write a balanced chemical equation for the reaction of copper metal with
concentrated nitric acid to produce copper (II) nitrate, nitrogen dioxide, and water.
2. Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic reddish-brown gas. What safety precautions are required in this lab to protect
against this hazard, as well as the hazards due to the use of concentrated acid?
3. Copper (II) ions appear blue in aqueous solution. This is the transmitted color. The wavelengths of light
that are NOT absorbed give rise to the perceived or transmitted color of a substance. Based on the
principle of complementary colors, which colors of wavelengths of light would you expect to be most
strongly absorbed by Cu2+ ions?

Equipment and Chemicals

Part 1 Work as a Class
1. Obtain 50 mL of the 0.4 M stock solution of Cu(NO3)2.
2. Using several 100-mL volumetric flasks, use a serial dilution procedure to create 0.2M, 0.1M, and
0.05M solutions.
3. Label the solutions, cover them with parafilm, and place them on a table that can be easily accessed by
all groups.
Part 2A Work in your Small Group
1. Add two brass shot pieces (about 1 g) to a tared weighing dish and determine the mass.
2. Concentrated nitric acid is required to dissolve the brass shot. You will need an excess of the acid to
completely dissolve the shot. Since the reaction produces a toxic gas, NO2 (g), a fume hood is required
for this step in the procedure. Carefully measure about 6mL of the nitric acid into a 25 mL graduated
cylinder, place it in the fume hood, tilt it to the side, and carefully drop the two pieces of brass into the
cylinder. Close the fume hood.
3. Wait until tomorrow!
Part 2B Work in your Small Group
4. Set up your colorimeter with the LabQuest. Set the wavelength to 635 nm. {If 635 isnt available,
choose the closest number} Place a cuvette with distilled water in the colorimeter and press the Cal
button it should eventually read the absorbance as zero.
5. Beginning with the most dilute solution from the serial dilution, test and record the absorbance of the
0.05M, 0.1M, 0.2M, and 0.4M Cu2+ solutions.
6. Collect your graduated cylinder from the fume hood with your new copper solution. Add water to the
copper solution until the total volume is about 20-23 mL.
7. Record the exact volume of the cylinder in your data table.
8. Then, pour it back and forth from a beaker to the graduated cylinder a few times to thoroughly mix the
9. Analyze the absorbance of the solution you created.
Data and Observations
Data Table
Exact mass of brass: ______________
Solution of Cu2+
0.05 M
0.10 M
0.20 M
0.40 M
Solution created from brass (after
Exact volume of brass solution ____________


Qualitative Data
Describe the solutions. Compare
the Solution from Brass to the
Solutions from the Serial Dilution

Postlab Questions
1. Create a graph showing the relationship between Cu2+ concentration and absorbance from your data.
Include the data point 0,0. Your graph should clearly show data points as small circles or squares (they
should not blend into the line) and a best-fit line.
2. Based on the absorbance of your brass solution, what is the final concentration of Cu+2 ions in the brass
3. Using the molarity and volume of the Cu+2 in the brass solution, determine the mass of copper in the
original brass sample.
4. Determine the percent copper in the original brass sample.
5. Why did you include the data point 0,0 in your graph? Give a full explanation.
Dont forget this part!
Error Analysis
You can still do error analysis, but an actual percentage error cannot be determined. Discuss why.