Student Question

What effect will this error have on the determination of the heat capacity (Cp)of the calorimeter?

A careless scientist is about to measure the heat capacity of a calorimeter using the procedure described in this experiment. The scientist misreads the burette and dispenses 95.00 mL of water rather than the required 75.00 mL into his calorimeter. If the scientist presumes that the volume was 75 mL, what effect will this error have on the determination of the heat capacity (Cp)of the calorimeter?

Expert Answers

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It will give an incorrect reading, one that is a lower heat capacity than the actual correct one.  Allowing the reaction to take place and dispense heat into the calorimeter, there is 20 ml of water extra to absorb that heat.  Water has different heat capacities at different temperatures, so there is not a consistent absorption of the heat generated.  My guess is since there is 20 ml water more than the prescribed volume of water, the resultant reading will be much lower than anticipated.  Scientists such as this should follow an old carpentry rule:  measure twice, cut once.  Always double check your measurements, it tends to cut back on careless errors.

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