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DETERMINATION OF AVOGADROS NUMBER FROM THE

INVESTIGATION OF BROWNIAN MOTION


Report Author: Louis Mercado

Report Submitted: 3 December 2015

Data Collected: 19 November 2015

Laboratory Partners: Tret Burdette


Mallory Bradberry

Teaching Assistant: Ray Belliveau

Authors Affiliation: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry


University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208

I pledge that my work meets the standard of the USC Honor Code.

ABSTRACT

Avogadro's number was experimentally determined by observing Brownian motion of


polystyrene beads suspended in water. Pictures of the polystyrene beads under
microscope were taken every 10 seconds over 4 minutes. The movements of the
polystyrene beads were then tracked by measuring their displacements from image to
image. A histogram of the displacements was created and a Gaussian curve was fitted,
which was used to calculate an experimental Avogadros number of 4.237*10 23 [e]
1.575*1023 mol-1 [f], which was 29.6%[g] percent different from the actual value of
Avogadros number, 6.02*1023 mol-1 [1].

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INTRODUCTION

This paper reports the experimental determination of Avogadros number through the
investigation of the kinetic property of Brownian motion in polystyrene beads suspended
in deionized water. Avogadros number, 6.02*10 23 mol-1, is the number of entities per
mole of a substance and is an important constant in the field of chemistry especially in
molar conversions [1].

The undergraduate chemistry coursework in the University of South Carolina is a


progressive learning pedagogy. General chemistry, CHEM 111 and CHEM 112, and
quantitative analysis, CHEM 321, introduce students to atomic and molecular properties
and demonstrated molar calculations. Requisite physics classes, PHYS 211 and PHYS
212, presented the physical and kinetic properties of atoms. Organic chemistry, CHEM
333 and CHEM 334, educated students about the interactions between molecules.
CHEM 541 incorporates the knowledge gained from previous courses and combines the
physical and chemical facets of atomic structures to enable students investigate kinetic
properties and use this knowledge for this experiment.

Brownian motion is the phenomenon of random movement found in minute particles


suspended in a liquid and was discovered by Robert Brown in 1827 [4]. Jean Perrin
later associated this phenomenon with Avogadros number in 1908, which lead to his
discoveries in kinetic theory and atomic structure [3]. Numerous experiments have
been performed to experimentally determine Avogadros number. In particular, Szell et.
al. designed an inexpensive method to determine Avogadros number by observing the
relationship between the amount of electrons flowing in acidified water and the number
of moles of electrons [2].

Avogadros number was experimentally determined in the experiment by observing the


Brownian motion of polystyrene bead particles. The displacements of the movements
of these particles were tracked and measured to create a histogram and a fitted
Gaussian curve. The curve was then used to calculate the experimental value of
Avogadros number, which was 4.237*1023 [e]1.575*1023 mol-1 [f]. This experimental
value was found to be 29.6%[g] percent different from the literature value of Avogadros
number, 6.02*1023 mol-1 [1].

EXPERIMENTAL

The microscope used in the experiment was the BMT Series #0120499 from PARCO.
The thermometer used was the Parr Bomb Calorimeter Thermometer (Parr #1603) from
Parr Instruments. The polystyrene beads (LOT# MKBN2817V), which had a 0.46 m
mean particle size, were obtained from Sigma-Aldrich. The Air Force target used was
the USAF 1951 Target and was obtained from Endmund Optics. The camera used was
the Chameleon GMLN-1352C (Serial no. 13500994).

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The Air Force target was placed under the microscope and incrementally magnified to
4x, 10x, and 40x. A picture was taken at each magnification and the time was recorded.
The polystyrene beads were prepared on a slide and another glass slide was put on
top. The slide was placed under the microscope and the suspension in the glass was
allowed to equilibrate. After equilibrium was reached, pictures were taken every 10
seconds for 4 minutes.

The experiment was performed in Jones Physical Science Building Room 209 at the
University of South Carolina-Columbia.

RESULTS

The experiment was performed in a temperature of 296.22 0.01 K. Three particles


were picked from the images taken over the 4 minute interval using Microsoft Paint.
The locations and displacements of these particles were recorded in pixels and are
shown below in Table I.

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Table I: Initial and final x and y-coordinates and displacements of the particles over 220 seconds
Time Particle 1 Particle 2 Particle 3
(s) Xi Xf X[a] Yi Yf Xi Xf Yi Yf Xi Xf Yi Yf Y
Y X Y X
0 - 544 - - 715 - - 591 - - 577 - - 492 - - 550 -

10 544 551 7 715 744 29 591 674 83 577 582 5 492 481 -11 550 541 -9

20 555 525 -30 571 566 -5 674 672 -2 582 567 -15 552 593 41 743 747 -4

30 492 491 -1 425 392 -33 524 525 1 567 538 -29 597 623 26 600 611 11

40 490 519 29 394 384 -10 553 567 14 531 547 16 438 489 51 710 707 -3

50 625 651 26 352 359 7 710 787 77 592 606 14 691 764 73 501 486 -15

60 651 665 14 359 381 22 410 434 24 280 289 9 521 519 -2 670 681 11

70 434 402 -32 289 290 2 747 736 -11 364 380 16 622 602 20 670 670 0

80 779 747 -32 326 337 11 802 807 5 379 387 8 756 738 -18 595 612 17

90 755 793 38 641 638 -3 864 874 10 590 591 1 425 434 9 456 435 -21

100 875 869 -6 590 605 15 622 581 -41 577 616 39 860 840 -20 383 360 -23

110 703 682 -21 592 589 -3 935 961 26 671 643 -28 748 750 2 322 307 -15

120 684 726 42 589 592 3 513 495 -18 433 433 0 671 667 -4 386 372 -14

130 663 660 -3 601 569 -32 363 392 29 543 530 -13 607 587 -20 620 618 -2

140 394 428 34 530 552 22 661 669 8 567 571 4 679 703 24 647 631 -16

150 603 584 -19 368 379 11 472 482 10 554 565 11 562 564 2 651 648 -3

160 595 575 -20 589 570 -19 670 701 31 742 741 -1 605 622 17 673 693 20

170 679 684 5 587 582 -5 482 465 -17 456 443 -13 565 570 5 653 659 6

180 560 552 -8 719 713 -6 684 686 2 583 595 12 430 419 -11 512 497 -15

190 611 602 -9 514 528 14 652 673 21 734 750 16 450 476 26 503 502 -1

200 480 477 -3 504 507 3 576 571 -5 688 705 17 635 617 -18 592 582 -10

210 586 609 23 489 462 -27 781 760 -21 568 559 -9 590 613 23 711 714 3

220 436 435 -1 487 478 -9 612 621 9 502 513 11 695 683 -12 550 558 8

DISCUSSION

Equation 1 below shows the formula for finding the displacement of a particle, x, where
xf is the final x-coordinate and xi is the initial x-coordinate. The same formula can be
applied to displacements in the y-coordinate
1. x=x f x i
Equation 2 below shows the formula to find the 95% confidence interval, C.I., where t is
the critical value for the 95% confidence interval (1.997), sd is the standard deviation of
the displacements, and N is the number of samples.
sd
2. C.I.= t
N

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Using the data in Table I, a 95% confidence interval was constructed for displacements
in the x-coordinate and y-coordinate. Without performing an outlier test, the initial 95%
confidence interval for the displacements in the x-coordinate was (0.8932, 13.531).
Using an outlier test, three displacement values were thrown away. The outliers are
highlighted in Table I. The new 95% confidence interval for the displacements in the x-
coordinate was (-1.427, 8.9824). No outliers were found in the displacements in the y-
coordinate and the 95% confidence interval for the displacements in the y-coordinate
was (-3.992, 3.4769).

Using IGOR, a histogram of the displacements of the particles from Table II was created
and is shown below in Figure 1. A Gaussian curve was also fitted on the histogram.
Number of particles

Displacement (pixels)

Figure 1: Histogram of the displacements along with a fitted Gaussian curve, which produced a curve
width of 26.492 2.46 pixels.
Equation 3 below shows the formula to calculate the real width, , where w is the width
obtained from IGOR. The was found to be 18.73 1.7395 pixels, which converts to
5.47E-6 5.086E-7 m using the conversion factor expressed in Equation 4.
w
3. =
2
4. 1 pixel=2.924107 m

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Equation 5 below shows the formula for Avogadros number, N a, where R is the
universal gas constant (8.314 m3Pa/mol/K), T is temperature in Kelvin, t is time in
seconds, is the width in meters, is the viscosity of water, and r is the radius of the
polystyrene beads.
RTt
5. N a=
3 2 r
Equation 2 below shows the formula for calculating the percent difference between the
experimental H and the theoretical H.
|referenceexperimental|
6. Percent Difference= 100
reference
The experimental value for Avogadros number was 4.237*10 23 [e]1.575*1023 mol-1 [f],
which yielded a percent difference of 29.6% [g] from the actual value 6.02*1023 mol-1 [1].
There are several sources of error that contributed to this high percent difference from
the theoretical value. The most prominent source of error is the method of tracking the
movement of particles on Microsoft Paint. First of all, the human eye cannot precisely
pick certain particles and track their movement with high accuracy. Next, the images of
the particles were viewed in 2D. Although displacement in the x and y directions were
measured, the displacement in the z direction was not taken into account. The 10
second interval between stills also may not have been enough as the spots form the
stills were only estimated. The polystyerene beads may have collided and stuck with
one another, which attributes to the high percent difference. The temperature was only
recorded once in the experiment, so changes in temperature could have added to the
error. Air currents in the room may have pierced the suspension of the polystyrene
beads and, in turn, affected Brownian motion. Performing the experiment in vacuum
can eliminate the error contributed by the presence of air currents. In addition,
undetected seismic activity or accidental tipping of the table could have affected the
Brownian motion of the polystyrene beads.

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REFERENCES

1. Atkins, P.W.; de Paula, J. Physical Chemistry, 9th ed.; W.H. Freeman and Co: New
York, 2010; pp. 5.

2. Szell, T.; et al. An Approximate Determination of Avogadros constant. Journal of


Chemical Education. 1980, 57, 735-736.

3. Jensen, W.B.; How and When did Avogadros Name become Associated with
Avogadros Number?. Journal of Chemical Education. 2007, 84, 223.

4. Layton, D.; The original observation of Brownian motion. Journal of Chemical


Education. 1965, 42, 367.