Monday 22nd November 2010 by C. Freeman
Sixth Formers carried out an extended series of science experiments over a three-day stint as part of their A Level coursework. The 47 students occupied a double science lab for the whole time, running individual experiments and recording data.
Many of them were working on two distinct projects, chemical kinetics or making aspirin. The science of kinetics looks at how the rate of chemical reaction is affected by different factors such as concentration or temperature while those working on the aspirin test were synthesising their own and comparing its purity to commercially produced versions.
Rachel Collins was studying the reaction between bromide, bromate and hydrogen ions while Harpreet Bhelley was looking at the reaction between hydrogen peroxide and catalase produced by yeast. She said: ‘I aim to find out the rate and order of the reaction and see if I can work out what its activation enthalpy is. Enthalpy is the amount of energy the particles need to overcome in order for the reaction to take place, if it is too cold there won’t be a reaction.’
Tom Hoier was measuring an iodine propanone reaction using a colorimeter which was connected to his laptop. The colourimeter measured the concentration of a chemical sample and took seven readings a second. These were then fed into the computer which plotted the rate of reaction.
David Edwards made aspirin and tested its percentage yield. He said: ‘At the most it takes about three hours to make. It is solid but in crystallised form. Keeping up with the workload is probably the most difficult part because you there is quite a lot to do within a given time.’
The students were overseen by Mr Paul Knight and Mrs Karen Hearne who said: ‘It is a challenge for them to be on their feet the whole time conducting experiments. It is a good insight into what it would be like if they worked in a lab or studied science at university. They have to work well together and be aware of safety issues and of the other experiments going on around them. They will do some detailed mathematics and analysis from their findings. It is all about accuracy and attention to detail.’