Use in Volumetric Analysis
When choosing primary standards in analytical chemistry, compounds with higher equivalent weights are generally more desirable because weighing errors are reduced. An example is the volumetric standardisation of a solution of sodium hydroxide which has been prepared to approximately 0.1 mol dm−3. It is necessary to calculate the mass of a solid acid which will react with about 20 cm3 of this solution (for a titration using a 25 cm3 burette): suitable solid acids include oxalic acid dihydrate, potassium hydrogen phthalate and potassium hydrogen iodate. The equivalent weights of the three acids 63.04 g, 204.23 g and 389.92 g respectively, and the masses required for the standardisation are 126.1 mg, 408.5 mg and 779.8 mg respectively. Given that the measurement uncertainty in the mass measured on a standard analytical balance is ±0.1 mg, the relative uncertainty in the mass of oxalic acid dihydrate would be about one part in a thousand, similar to the measurement uncertainty in the volume measurement in the titration. However the measurement uncertainty in the mass of potassium hydrogen iodate would be five times lower, because its equivalent weight is five times higher: such an uncertainty in the measured mass is negligible in comparison to the uncertainty in the volume measured during the titration (see example below).
For sake of example, it shall be assumed that 22.45±0.03 cm3 of the sodium hydroxide solution reacts with 781.4±0.1 mg of potassium hydrogen iodate. As the equivalent weight of potassium hydrogen iodate is 389.92 g, the measured mass is 2.004 milliequivalents. The concentration of the sodium hydroxide solution is therefore 2.004 meq/0.02245 l = 89.3 meq/l. In analytical chemistry, a solution of any substance which contains one equivalent per litre is known as a normal solution (abbreviated N), so the example sodium hydroxide solution would be 0.0893 N. The relative uncertainty (ur) in the measured concentration can be estimated by assuming a Gaussian distribution of the measurement uncertainties:
This sodium hydroxide solution can be used to measure the equivalent weight of an unknown acid. For example, if it takes 13.20±0.03 cm3 of the sodium hydroxide solution to neutralise 61.3±0.1 mg of an unknown acid, the equivalent weight of the acid is:
Because each mole of acid can only release an integer number of moles of hydrogen ions, the molar mass of the unknown acid must be an integer multiple of 52.0±0.1 g.
Read more about this topic: Equivalent Weight
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“A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.”
—Karl Marx (18181883)