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PURIFYING COPPER (II) SULPHATE AND POTASSIUM NITRATE

Introduction

A substance is said to be soluble in a solvent (a liquid in most cases) when it forms a


solution (“disappears” in it). But the solubilities of different substances (that is, how much
of them will dissolve in 100 g of the solvent) are very different. Moreover, solubility also
depends on temperature.
Look carefully at the chart below. If you read along a row, say, the one that starts with “20
degrees” you will find that the solubility in water for the four substances at that temperature
is very different. On the other hand, if you read down a column, say, the potassium nitrate
column, you will notice how dramatically solubility changes with temperature for this
substance. For sodium chloride instead, solubility changes just slightly.

SOLUBILITY DATA g
Examples of
salt / 100g water

Salt name and


formula → potassium
potassium sodium chloride
sulphate
nitrate KNO3 NaCl copper(II)sulphate
K2SO4
Temp. deg C ↓ CuSO4 • 5 H2O

0 13.9 7.4 35.7 14.3

10 21.2 9.3 35.8 17.4

20 31.6 11.1 36.0 20.7

30 45.3 13.0 36.2 24.2

40 61.4 14.8 36.5 28.7

50 83.5 16.5 36.8 33.8

60 106.0 18.2 37.3 40.0

70 19.8 37.6 47.0

80 169 21.4 38.1 56.0

90 22.9 38.6 67.5

100 246 24.1 39.2 80.0


answer
Try to answer these questions finding the relevant information in the table:
1- Which is the less soluble substance at 0°C?
2- Which is the less soluble substance at 100°C?
3- Which is the substance that has the highest solubility at 20°C?
4- Suppose you add 100g of water to 60 g of copper (II) sulphate and heat to
80°C: will it dissolve completely?
5- How many grams will remain undissolved?
6- What would happen if you cool down the solution in (5) to 10°C?

These differences in solubility are used by chemists to purify substances: you can dissolve
them in a little hot water, then filter hot to get rid of the insoluble dirt and then cool down
and wait for crystals to appear. Impurities that are soluble will remain dissolved and if the
crystals are filtered, washed and dried, the sample will be purer than before. This
procedure can be repeated over and over again and is called recrystallisation. Crystals look
very nice both with the naked eye or looking through a microscope. That is because the
particles that form the crystals are aligned (as gymnasts and soldiers do) in regular though
different patterns.

Aims

To obtain pure substances starting with dirty samples.

Apparatus

Funnel, iron ring, retort stand, beaker, stirring rod, Bunsen burner, tripod, wire gauze,
measuring cylinder, filter paper, watch glass, and a laboratory scale or balance.

The Purification of Copper (II) Sulphate

Procedure

1- Fix the apparatus as shown in the figure on the right side of the page
2- Weigh 15 g of impure copper (II) sulphate in a small beaker and add
30 ml of distilled water. Heat close to the boil while stirring with the
glass rod. The solid should be completely dissolved.
3- The insoluble residue will be filtered in an apparatus as shown on
the next page. Pour the solution carefully using a stirring rod to avoid
spillages (the teacher will show you).
4- The filtrate is received on a second beaker
or directly in an evaporating dish. Rinse the
first beaker with some 10 ml of hot distilled
water twice so that the filtrate looks nearly
colourless.
5- As too much water may have been used,
evaporate the filtrate on a boiling water bath
(already used in experiment Nr 2) moving the
liquid with the rod frequently. As soon as you
notice that crystals appear put out the burner.
6- Allow to cool slowly to room temperature.
7- If crystals do not appear leave for the next class. Filter the
crystals with the apparatus previously described.
Wash them with a few ml of iced water and put them on a
watch glass or a piece of filter paper.
8- Let them dry. You can keep the crystals in a polythene bag.

Copper (II) sulphate is an algaecide used for


maintenance of swimming pools. Have you got
some at home?
Be careful with it because it is poisonous.

The Purification of Potassium Nitrate

Procedure

1- Fix once again the apparatus as shown for copper (II) sulphate.
2- Weigh 15 g of impure potassium nitrate in a boiling tube and add 15 ml of distilled
water. Heat in a boiling water bath while stirring with the glass rod. The solid should be
completely dissolved; otherwise add small portions of distilled water until it does.
3- As previously done, filter hot to eliminate insoluble grit. Use the same apparatus as you
used for the copper (II) sulphate experiment.
4- The filtrate is received on a second beaker or directly in an evaporating dish. Rinse the
first beaker with some 5 ml of hot distilled water twice so that the filtrate looks nearly
colourless.
5- As too much water may have been used, evaporate partially on a boiling water bath
moving the liquid with the rod frequently.
6- As soon as you notice that crystals appear transfer the liquid to a small test tube and cool
it in an ice – water bath.
7- When the solution is chilled, filter the crystals.
8- Let the crystals dry on a piece of filter paper.