Measuring the Energy Content of Four Fuels
During the experiment that I did, I used a range of equipment to measure the energy content of four different fuels. From the results, I then worked out information about each fuels efficiency and different properties.
The aim of this investigation was the work out how much energy would pass into a measured volume of water. To work out this sort of data, I had to record the start and end weight of the spirit burner and the start and end temperature of the water after a allocated amount of time. This gave me the necessary information to work out detailed properties of each fuel we tested.
Apparatus: The first step into the investigation was to collect and set up the apparatus. This required the use of a test tube, heat proof mat, a measuring cylinder, a clamp stand, thermometer and anspirit burner.
Procedure: The investigation was set up like so – The test tube would be placed in the clamp stand with 25ml of water. The ethanol burner was then placed underneath of the test tube 4cm away from the bottom. This was all placed on top of a heat proof mat. The thermometer was then placed into the test tube and water and a first reading was taken. The spirit burner was also weighed at the start and finish to calculate the total amount of fuel used.
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The investigation then begun and the spirit burner was lit and placed underneath the test tube for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Once completed, the end temperature was recorded and the spirit burner was weighed.
From this information, we calculated the change in temperature and the total amount of fuel used during the 2 minutes and 30 seconds. This was repeated for the 4 fuels. These were Methanol, Ethanol, Propanol and Octanol. These results were then recorded into a table.
Heat Proof Mat
| Test 1 | Test 2 | Test 3 | Average |
Methanol | +2m 30s | +2m 30s | +2m 30s | |
Start Temperature (oC) | 19 | 21 | 23 | |
Start Weight (g) | 205.4 | 204.4 | 203.7 | |
End Temperature (oC) | 74 | 85 | 66 | |
End Weights (g) | 204.6 | 203.8 | 302.0 | |
temperature rise (oC) | 55 | 64 | 43 | 54 |
Fuel Used (g) | 0.8 | 0.6 | 0.7 | 0.7 |
Ethanol | | | | |
Start Temperature (oC) | 23 | 21 | 23 | |
Start Weight (g) | 205.4 | 204.4 | 203.7 | |
End Temperature (oC) | 74 | 63 | 66 | |
End Weights (g) | 204.7 | 203.8 | 203.0 | |
Temperature Rise (oC) | 51 | 42 | 43 | 43 |
Fuel Used (g) | 0.7 | 0.6 | 0.6 | 0.6 |
Propanol | | | | |
Start Temperature (oC) | 23 | 23 | 23 | |
Start Weight (g) | 185.0 | 182.6 | 180.2 | |
End Temperature (oC) | 65 | 70 | 62 | |
End Weights (g) | 182.7 | 180.3 | 178.2 | |
Temperature Rise (oC) | 42 | 47 | 39 | 43 |
Fuel Used (g) | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.0 | 2.2 |
Octanol | | | | |
Start Temperature (oC) | 23 | 24 | 25 | |
Start Weight (g) | 150.8 | 150.2 | 149.4 | |
End Temperature (oC) | 65 | 73 | 71 | |
End Weights (g) | 150.2 | 149.4 | 148.5 | |
Temperature Rise (oC) | 42 | 49 | 46 | 46 |
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Fuel Used (g) | 0.6 | 0.8 | 0.9 | 0.8 |
I know: Volume of Water (25ml)
Start/End Temperature – Temperature Rise
From the results, I then worked out the Specific Heat Capacity. This is the amount of energy in joules needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of substance by 1oC.
1ml of water = 1g of water.
I then needed to find out the specific heat capacity. This was not something that I could work out so research had to be done.
I found out that water has the specific heat capacity of 4181 joules per kg.
Formula: E = m x c x ΔT E is the Energy Transferred – This is what we want to work out.
m is the Mass of water in g. (25ml = 25g)
c is the specific heat capacity of water. (4.181j/g)
ΔT is the temperature rise from the results table.
Methanol: 25g x 4.2 x 54oC = 5670j ÷ 0.7g = 8100j/g
Ethanol: 25g x 4.2 x 43oC = 4515j ÷ 0.6g = 7525j/g
Propanol: 25g x 4.2 x 43oC = 4515 ÷ 2.2g = 2052.3j/g
Octanol: 25g x 4.2 x 46oC = 4830 ÷ 0.8g = 6037.5j/g
Order of Energy given off from each fuel:
Methanol – 1 Carbon Atom
Ethanol – 2 Carbon Atom
Octanol – 8 Carbon Atom
Propanol – 3 Carbon Atom
(Based on results)
The accuracy of this investigation had to be controlled as much as possible. During the experiment, I found out that a draft around the room would shift the flame from side to side so that it was not constantly providing heat to the test tube.
Another problem during the investigation was the size of the wick that was inside of the spirit burner had an effect of the size of the flame and the amount of fuel that was used. I assume that the thicker the wick, the more fuel that was used and the higher the flame would be. This experiment could been more precise by using the same spirit burner, the same wick but different fuels. This could ensure more accurate results to be recorded.
When speaking to the other group that did the same experiment, I found out that they had got the same pattern of results – Methanol, Ethanol, Octanol then Propanol.
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I believe that my results are reliable. Each test for the 4 fours were repeated 3 times. This ensured reliability that the results I received were correct. From my results, I found out that Methanol produced the most amount of energy at 8100j/g.
I have learnt many things from this investigation. Breaking bonds requires energy and that comes from the exothermic reaction of lighting the spirit burner and is called complete combustion. I would of preferred if, as said previous that I used the same spirit burner, wick etc to ensure that the accuracy of the investigation was a little more in depth and would mean that my result would of been more reliable when recording them for a second time.
I would have also preferred if we did an order of fuels, EG: Methanol, Ethanol, Propanol, Butanol. This would of made the results clearer to understand as the carbon atoms in the chain also go up in order and do not miss a gap.
If I was to do this investigation again, I would like to experiment with the different heights and thicknesses of the wick, different amount of times to burn the fuel, different volumes of water, using different apparatus.
A piece of apparatus that I have come across that could of make this investigation more reliable, precise and accurate is a Bomb Calorimeter. This works by measure the heat given off by a fuel burned for example Methanol under an atmosphere in a closed chamber which is then surrounded by water under controlled conditions.
The results are measured by Combustion. From the results, you are then able to work out the quality, physiological, physical, chemical as well as financial costs of the product. Over all, you can find out the efficiency of each fuel via this device.
If this equipment was available to us, it would mean our results could be 100% trusted because the device can control every variable possible.
(Image of a Bomb Calorimeter)