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The Determination of Keq for FeSCN2+

The purpose of this lab was to calculate the equilibrium constant for the reaction

of iron (III) ions with thiocyanate ions. The reaction is tested under different conditions

to determine if the equilibrium constant always has the same numerical value. In order to

test for this, two parts were necessary for this experiment.

The first part consisted of mixing two sets of solutions. The first of which was a

series of five reference solutions which contained a large excess of Fe3+ ions with known

amounts of SCN- ions. Ideally, the Fe3+ ions should have converted all of the SCN- ions

into the blood red FeSCN2+ ions. Therefore the concentration of the FeSCN2+ in these

solutions should have been equal to the initial concentration of the SCN- ions. The second

set of solutions was a series of five test solutions which contained a constant amount of

Fe3+ ions with varying amounts of SCN- ions. These solutions did not have Fe3+ ions in a

large excess so these solutions contained unknown concentrations of FeSCN2+ ions at

equilibrium.

The second part of this experiment consisted of using colorimetry to find the

concentration of the FeSCN2+ ions at equilibrium in the test solutions. A

spectrophotometer was first calibrated using a test tube filled with distilled water as the

zero absorbance reference. It was then used to find the percent transmittance of each of

the reference and test solutions. The percent transmittance was converted to absorbance

and recorded. The absorbance was then graphed against the concentration of FeSCN2+

ions at equilibrium for the reference solutions. This produced a calibration curve which

was used as a reference which, when combined with the known absorbance values, was

used to calculate the concentration of FeSCN2+ ions at equilibrium in the test solutions.
Once these concentrations were found, the concentrations of Fe3+ ions and SCN- ions at

equilibrium were found for the test solutions and all three sets of values were used to

determine the value of the equilibrium constant for each solution and the then the average

value of the equilibrium constant for the reaction.

The average value of the equilibrium constant for this reaction was found to be 86

and the average deviation was approximately 8. Despite the great variation in initial

concentrations of the reactants in the test solutions, the values of the equilibrium constant

for each solution were fairly precise. This precision despite the varying initial

concentrations implies that the equilibrium constant is a constant, independent of and

unaffected by the initial concentrations of the reactants.

There were several sources of error in this lab that produced the lack of exact

precision in the lab. Aside from basic human error such as the natural error in estimating

values when reading measurements, one source of error came from how clean the test

tubes were. The test tubes were cleaned and wiped but were cleaned aggressively or

sterilized of particulates so it is very possible that some dust particles and other

particulates in the air remained of the tubes and contributed to slightly lower percent

transmittance and thus a higher absorbance value than would have been obtained

otherwise. Another possible source of error comes from the fact that the same test tube

was not used for each solution. Absorbance is defined as the product of the molar

concentration of the substance absorbing the light, the absorptivity of the sample, and the

width of the test tube through which the light passes. Because substance that absorbs the

light, the FeSCN2+ ions, is the same in each solution, the absorptivity of the sample

remains constant. Ideally, the width of the test tube would remain constant and the
absorbance would vary directly with the molar concentration of the FeSCN2+ ions.

However because the same test tube was not used for each solution, it is possible that the

width of the test tube varied from solution to solution due to varying radii as well as

varying thicknesses of the glass. This variance would alter the value of the absorbance as

a greater width would produce a higher absorbance value and a smaller width would

produce a lower absorbance value than would have been found otherwise.