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Diffusion of Acetone in Air

Bryan John (50%)

Jeremy Alley (50%)
Alley, John 2

Table of Contents(check short report format)

I. Abstract(usually put abstract before TC, no page #s, etc. also)


II. Background 4

III. Experimental Methods 4

IV. Discussion of Results 5

V. Conclusions and Recommendations 12

Figures and Tables

Figure 1 6

Figure 2 6

Figure 3 7

Table 1 9


Appendix A (Nomenclature and Sample Calculations)

Appendix B (Excel Spread Sheets)

Alley, John 3

Abstract (3 C’s: Clear, Concise , Complete)

A molecular diffusion experiment of acetone-air (redundant w/ last sentence. .

concise)was conducted with the goal of determining the diffusion coefficient of acetone

into air. For this experiment, acetone was placed in a test tub 3mm OD, 2mm ID . . (is

that correct?) NMR tube? e and was allowed to diffuse into non-diffusing air that was

passed over the test tube. The air that passed over the tube was from natural circulation

in the room and no air was forced over the top of the test tube. The diffusion occurred

over a period of approximately eight hours, with readings taken each hour. After

analyzing the data collected from the performance of this experiment, tThe diffusion

coefficient was calculated to be 0.098 + 0.02 cm2/s at T = ?. After completing our

calculations, oOur results were then compared using the Chapman-Enskog equation as

well as the Fuller, Schettler, and Giddings method. The diffusion coefficient calculated

by the Chapman-Enskog was 0.990 + 0.001 cm2/s and the result of the Fuller, Schettler,

and Giddings method was 0.104 + .002 cm2/s. The literature value found in Perry’s

Chemical Engineer’s Handbook was 0.125 + 0.00 cm2/s. (at T = ?. . .or extrapolated

from?) The agreement of our method with the other methods available for calculating the

diffusion coefficient was very good (how good is “very” good. ..significant discrepencies

or not?), and also agreed well with the literature value found. This led to a conclusion

that this method of determining the diffusion coefficient of acetone into air can be

aconsidered a reasonably reliable method.

Alley, John 4


Molecular diffusion is the transfer or movement of individual molecules through a

fluid by random molecular movements (Geankoplis 412, year of publication). In the

diffusion process, the molecules of interest flow from regions of high concentration to

low concentration. Molecular diffusion can occur in both directions with the system. In

the case of the diffusion tube experiment, however, acetone diffuses through non-

diffusing air, which is passed over the top of the test tube containing the acetone. The air

is allowed into the test tube, but does not diffuse into the acetone.

Molecular diffusion of gases has been studied for many years. Molecular

diffusion is a mass transport process Motivation for its study comes from the fact that

chemical separation processes such as distillation, drying, ion exchange systems as well

as many other processes depend on molecular diffusion (Kirk-Othmer Vol 8, p 149(check



For the performance of this experiment, a small test tube was filled approximately

a third full of acetoneBe specific. . how small, starting height, diam, etc. This test tube

was then vertically placed in a 10mL graduated cylinder which contained small beads.

The purpose of the beads was to ensure that the test tube remained vertical. This

assembly was then placed on a digital scale. The amount of air movement provided by

the ventilation system was assumed to be adequate so as to ensure that the concentration
Alley, John 5

of the acetone at the top of the tube was zero. An initial acetone level in the test tube was

taken, as well as the mass of the assembly and the temperature of the area surrounding

the assembly. After this initial data was taken, the area temperature and mass of the

assembly were taken approximately every hour for the next eight hours. The final level

of the acetone in the test tube was taken when the final temperature and mass reading

were taken.


From the data collected from the experiment, the diffusion coefficient was calculated

using equation 6.2-26 from Geankoplis:

ρ A ( z 2 f − z 2 0 ) RTpBM
t= (Equation 1)
2 M A D AB P ( p A1 − p A2 )

As the z value was only recorded at the beginning and the end of the experiment, the

intermediate values of z had to be calculated. The following equation was used for the

calculation of the intermediate z values:

( m0 − mt )
zt = + z0 (Equation 2)
ρA A

Thus, all values but DAB were known and could be plotted versus time to obtain a linear

plot. By rearranging equation 1, it can be seen that the slope of this plot will be equal to

1/ DAB :

1 ρ A ( z 2 f − z 2 0 ) RTpBM
t=( )( ) (Equation 1.1)
D AB 2 M A P( p A1 − p A 2 )

The initial plot of data which includes all points is shown below in Figure 1. This

plot contains all points and has an R2 value of 0.9478. From this plot the molecular

diffusivity coefficient was determined to be 0.108 + 0.022 cm2/s.

Alley, John 6

t vs x

-5000.00 0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3

Figure 1: First plot of data in Equation 1

The second point in the data (t=2700s) showed no diffusion occurred in the first

45 minutes, which seems unlikely (yes, good- sensitivity of balance, etc). If this point is

taken as erroneous, the R2 value goes up to 0.9639 (more important here will be the

confidence interval on the slop. . .get that from Tools- Data Analyis-Regression menu in

Excel or else in Polymath or TableCureve, etc) and the molecular diffusivity calculates

out to be 0.098 + 0.021 cm2/s. The plot of the experimental data excluding the second

point is presented below in Figure 2.

t vx x


-5000 0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3

Alley, John 7

Figure 2: Second plot of data in Equation 1. . forcing through zero point is good. . .looks to me

like first FOUR points would give a lower Dab then the last 4. Problems with next 3 that lie below line?

Anytihing suspicious happening here?

To determine the time it takes for the system to reach steady state, the following

equation can be used to calculate the fraction of steady state the system is at:

Dzt2t 4 Dzt2t 9 Dzt2t 16 Dzt2t 25 Dzt2t

− − − − −
( N A )t zo2 zo2 zo2 zo2 zo2
= 1 − 2e + 2e − 2e + 2e − 2e (Equation
( N A ) t =∞


By plotting the value of ((NA)t/(NA)t=∞) versus time, the curve in Figure 3 was generated

which demonstrates the systems approach to steady state. Wow, great! Cite source. (still

wonder about SST conditions of 1st 4 pts though. . .

((NA)t/(NA)t=∞) vs t


0 100 200 300 400 500
t (min)

Figure 3: Fraction of steady state versus time

From this plot, it could be said that the system achieves steady state in 115

minutes; however, there is strong evidence this may not be accurate. As mentioned

earlier, the second point may be erroneous. This would change the path of the curve. In

addition, data was not collected at a high enough frequency for this curve to be highly
Alley, John 8

accurate at predicting the time to steady state. If in fact the second point is erroneous, the

system could have come to steady state well before 115 minutes. This time of 115

minutes at best, could be the upper bound (or lower bound according to Whitaker’s

criteria in his article (handout). . .not sure!!for the time it takes for the system to come to

steady state.

The scatter in the data can be attributed to various factors in the experiment. The

scatter could be attributed to the changes in temperature, as the temperature did fluctuate

slightly through the duration of the experiment – Good!. At what time did it stabilize?.

The change in temperature would cause a change in the partial pressure of the acetone

leading to further deviations. In addition, there was no measure of airflow past the tube.

Changes in the airflow could also have contributed to the scatter as it could effect the

concentration of the acetone at the top of the test tube (Good!).

The diffusion coefficient was also calculated using the Chapman Enskog


1.8583 *10 −7 T 3 / 2 1 1 1/ 2
DAB = ( + ) (Equation 4)

and the Fuller, Schettler and Giddings method.

1.00 *10 −7 T 1.75 (1 / M A + 1 / M B )1/ 2

DAB = (Equation 5)
P[(Σv A )1/ 3 + (ΣvB )1/ 3 ]2

A literature value was also found for acetone at ?? K(check Perrys), which was corrected

to our experimental temperature using the correlation

D AB 2 = DAB 1
T11.75 (Equation 6)
Alley, John 9

The values obtained with these methods as well as those from the experimental data are

presented in Table 2.

Value(cm2/s) + (cm2/s)
Experimental Plot 0.0981 0.0213
prob. Use
your given
Fuller Schettler and (approx. 8%
Table 1: Giddings 0.1044 and ?%
Chapman Enskog 0.0989 0.0015
Values of Literature 0.125 ?

molecular diffusivity coefficients found.**

** A very good way to show this graphically in Excel would be to use a bar graph showing the values of

Dab as height of a bar by method used, and error bars to easily demonstrate any overlap of uncertainty,

discrepancy, etc. Example:


Calculated Diffusivity






Data Fuller Schettler and Chapman Enskog Literature

The Chapman Enskog method is accurate within 8% and the Fuller Schettler and

Giddings value has a lower accuracy than the Chapman Enskog (Geankoplis 425). The
Alley, John 10

Chapman Enskog value is less than 1% different than the experimental value and the

Fuller Schettler and Giddings value only about 6% different. From this analysis, it seems

these equations predicted the experimental value very well. These calculated values are

about 20% lower than the literature value. This variance may come from the inconsistent

temperature in the room or from pressure fluctuations in the room caused perhaps by the

starting and stopping of the HVAC systems.

For the derivation of Equation 1, several assumptions are made. Beginning with

the general equation (Geankoplis 6.2-14):

dx A c A
N A = −cD AB + ( NA + NB ) (Equation 7)
dz c

One assumption was that because the case examined was a diffusing A (acetone) into

non-diffusing B (air), the diffusion flux of air into the acetone (NB) was equal to zero.

Another assumption made was that since the total pressure was low, the acetone gas

diffusing into air was an ideal gas. This allowed for the term c to be replaced with its

ideal gas equivalent, P/RT. Additionally, the air passing over the test tube was assumed

to contain no water vapor. An average air velocity that was uniform was passing over the

acetone containing test tube was also assumed.

There are non-idealities that exist in the molecular diffusion of acetone into air.

Some of these non-idealities are corrected for in the journal from Lee and Wilke.

Acetone displays surface tension effects which, instead of having a perfectly horizontal

liquid surface, give the liquid acetone a slightly downward curved liquid level. Because

of this curvature, the actual diffusion path length that the acetone travels is smaller than
Alley, John 11

what the diffusion length would appear to be based on center liquid level or calculated

liquid volume (Lee 2384).

Along with a non ideal liquid surface, the air passing over the open end of the tube may

cause some turbulence to exist in the top portion of the tube. With its existence, the

turbulent area of the tube will cause a length to exist inside the tube where the

concentration of acetone is zero. With the presence of this acetone vapor-free region, the

diffusion length is again shorter than it would appear to be.

To account for the non-idealities in the diffusion process, Lee and Wilke do not

use the apparent diffusion path. Instead, they use an effective average diffusion path

which they give by:

x = x a − ∆x s − ∆x e = x a − ∆x (Equation 8)

Where x is the effective average diffusion path, Δxs is the length of the curvature of the

non-ideal liquid to account for the surface tension forces, Δxe is the length of the tube

where the acetone vapor-free region exists due to turbulence that exists from the passage

of the air, and Δx is the sum of Δxs and Δxe (Lee 2384). When this is substituted back

into the diffusion equation, it becomes the following:

Da P∆p DP∆p
NA = = (Equation 9)
RTp a 2 x a RTp f ( x a − ∆x )

Where Da is the apparent diffusion coefficient and D is the true diffusion coefficient

based on the true diffusion path (Lee 2384). The way our experiment was setup, the

driving force for the air across the test tube was natural air flow and did not employ
Alley, John 12

forced air flow. Because of this, the length of the tube where the turbulence existed in

the Lee and Wilke journal would most likely not have been present in our experiment.

Also, the initial liquid acetone level selected in our experiment was such that the length

of the curvature due to the surface tension forces on the acetone would have been

negligible when compared to the apparent diffusion length of the tube.

The initial height of the liquid in the tube for this experiment was chosen wisely.

The reason for this is that with the initial level that was chosen, a sufficiently long

diffusion path existed such that the non-idealities that were accounted for in the Lee and

Wilke journal entry would have had a very insignificant impact on the results of our



From the data collected an analyzed, it has been determined that the experimental

procedure used here can determine the molecular diffusivity coefficient with some level

of accuracy. For future experiments, some form of air flow regulation should be

investigated. Something as simple as a room fan could be placed next to the scale to

ensure a more constant air flow. Another increase in accuracy could be achieved by

regulating the temperature with more consistency. If the experiment could be performed

in a large insulated room, the temperature may not vary as much.

Good job on Discussion, Conclusions, etc. . .to improve maybe expand to relate what

YOU think are the main ‘uncertaintys’ that caused problems in YOUR PARTICULAR


Alley, John 13

Alley, John 14