James Miller

Objectives: To show that some chemical changes can produce electrical energy. To determine experimentally the order in which some common metals will lose electrons (oxidation potentials). Materials: 200 mL of 1 M CuSO4, ZnSO4, FeSO4,
MgSO4, Pb(C2H3O2)2, Na2SO4, SnCl2, U - tube, voltmeter (projection or
demonstration type), 9 100 mL beakers, thermometer, 2 alligator clips, pieces of
Cu, Fe, Mg, Pb, Sn, Zn, flashlight, extra flashlight cell and hacksaw (optional),
glass wool, NiSO4, Ni.

Strategies: Begin the lesson by turning on a flashlight. All students are familiar with its operation. Ask how the flashlight is able to produce light. Most of the class will say it depends on the " batteries ". Continue by asking what is in the cells that produces the light. Perhaps some of the students will know. If not, open a cell with a hacksaw. Students will begin to get the idea that the materials in the cell must produce the electricity. Divide 100 mL of CuSO4 into each of two beakers. Measure and record the
temperature of the solution in each beaker. Repeat with 100 mL of ZnSO4 in 2
additional beakers. Have students note the appearance of a small piece of Zn and
Cu. Add a piece of Zn to one beaker of CuSO4 and add a piece of Cu to one of the
beakers containing ZnSO4. Set the four beakers aside and continue.
Assemble an electrochemical cell using CuSO4 in one beaker and ZnSO4 in
another. Use a U - tube filled with Na2SO4 (ends plugged with glass wool) as a
bridge between the beakers. Most general chemistry texts have a diagram of this
setup. Connect a piece of Cu to the positive terminal of the voltmeter. Attach a
piece of Zn to the negative terminal. Put the Cu into the beaker of CuSO4 and the
Zn into the beaker of ZnSO4. Measure and record the voltage produced. Construct
additional cells substituting each of the following for the Zn - ZnSO4: Fe -
FeSO4, Pb - Pb(C2H3O2)2, Mg - MgSO4, Sn - SnCl2, Ni - NiSO4. Record the voltages
for each cell. The voltages may not be the same as those given on a table of
standard oxidation potentials; however, the order will be.
Observe the contents of the four beakers set aside earlier. The Cu will be
unchanged indicating no reaction. The Zn will have a red coating which may be
recognized as Cu. The temperature of the ZnSO4 and CuSO4 solutions and the Cu in
ZnSO4 will be the same, but the temperature of the Zn in CuSO4 will be measurably
higher. The temperature change along with the color change indicate a chemical
reaction has occurred. Electrons were transferred from the Zn to the Cu+2. The
voltages obtained from each cell indicate the ease with which the metals will give
up electrons. The higher the voltage, the more likely the metal will lose its

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