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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 20 (2015) pp 220-223

Salt or Sugar?: An Open-ended Experiment to Start Instrumental Analysis

Shauna L. Hiley

Department of Chemistry, Missouri Western State University, 4525 Downs Drive, St. Joseph, MO 64507,
Received June 16, 2015. Accepted August 5, 2015.

Published: 28 August 2015

Abstract. The students in the Instrumental Analysis course at Missouri Western State University face new challenges in experiment design and method selection that are typically not the focus of their prerequisite courses in Quantitative Analysis and Organic Chemistry I. During the first laboratory session students are given a seemingly simple open-ended problem of identifying two unknowns that are either table salt or table sugar. The students must devise their own procedures, provide positive evidence for the identity of each unknown and report their results within a single three-hour lab period. This exercise sets the tone for the course in that it forces students to efficiently consider multiple possibilities to solve the problem and execute the analysis within a limited time.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; analytical chemistry; instrumental analysis

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (35 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Experimental directions with notes to instructors. (11 KB).

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