Evaporation is the conversion of a liquid into vapour, without necessarily reaching the boiling point. In this experiment the rate of evaporation is measured and compared under different conditions.
Evaporation is the conversion of liquid to vapour without the boiling point necessarily being reached. In this experiment, the time taken for a drop of propanone to evaporate is measured under a number of different conditions and compared.
Propanone is highly flammable; ensure that there are no sources of ignition nearby. Pupils could be asked to devise their own experiment, in which case teachers must check the plans before practical work starts, or they could be told how to vary the conditions and exactly what to do. A sample results table is available here.
Per pair or group of students:
Microscope slides, 2 or 3
Access to warm water (Note 1)
Propanone (HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, IRRITANT), few cm3
Refer to Health & Safety and Technical notes section below for additional information.
Health & Safety and Technical notes
Wear eye protection.
Propanone, CH3COCH3(l), (HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, IRRITANT) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard.
1 Use warm water from a tap or a kettle. Do not use a naked flame to heat the water.
a Put a drop of propanone onto a microscope slide and time how long it takes to evaporate.
b Change the conditions and repeat the experiment, ensuring that you record the conditions used and the time taken for each one. For example: warm the microscope slide by holding it in your hands, or by placing in warm water and then drying; spread the drop out with the tip of the dropper pipette; for a cool air flow, fan with a book or similar; for a warm air flow, blow across the drop.
Students should be able to observe that warmth, air flow and spreading out the drop all increase the rate at which it evaporates.
Liquids evaporate below their boiling point. This is because as the particles move around and collide, some have more energy than the others allowing them to escape from the rest of the liquid as vapour. This results in the overall energy of the liquid (and therefore its temperature) decreasing.
This experiment lends itself well to being a planning exercise or alternatively there are some sample results tables available.
Health & Safety checked, 2016
This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
© Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry
Page last updated October 2015
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This is a resource from the Practical Chemistry project, developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry. This collection of over 200 practical activities demonstrates a wide range of chemical concepts and processes. Each activity contains comprehensive information for teachers and technicians, including full technical notes and step-by-step procedures. Practical Chemistry activities accompany Practical Physics and Practical Biology.