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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 16 (2011) pp 310-313

Heat of Combustion and GC-MS of Regular, Regular-Plus and Premium Gasoline: An Undergraduate Experiment

Anne Gaquere-Parker*, Kelly Lawson, Michelle Logue, Kimberly Sutton, Courtney Richardson and Shavelle Gant

Department of Chemistry, University of West Georgia, 1601 maple street, Carrollton, GA, 30118,
Received July 5, 2011. Accepted October 5, 2011.

Published: 9 December 2011

Abstract. Gasoline samples from three different gas stations and of different octane rates (regular, regular-plus and premium) were purchased, analyzed using GC-MS and combusted in a bomb calorimeter. In this experiment, junior physical chemistry students used a bomb calorimeter to calculate heats of combustion and become familiar with the theory associated with this technique. Students also obtained GC-MS spectra of the gasoline samples for which the conditions are provided here. The identification of eighteen major compounds most often found in gasoline, with octane as a reference, was achieved and the results are summarized in this paper. This experiment brings real-world into the teaching laboratory.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; physical chemistry laboratory; gasoline; bomb calorimeter; heat of combustion; gas chromatography; mass spectrometry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (119 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

The gas chromatograms for all samples, the mass spectra for the identified molecules and a student handout are available as a pdf file (966 KB).

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