Gas Laws and the Molar Mass of Butane

A. Romero 2007
Gas Laws and the Molar Mass of Butane
The Erlenmeyer flask is initially full of water. The butane gas bubbles released from the butane
cylinder displace the water in the flask, lowering the water level inside the flask (and raising the water
level in the beaker). When the water level in the flask reaches the neck of the flask, we stop releasing
gas, and can make the two water levels equal by adjusting the height of the metal ring supporting the
flask. At this point, the pressure of the gas inside the flask is equal to the pressure of the air in the room
which can be measured using a barometer. We can also mark the position of the water level on the tape
along the neck of the flask so that we can determine the volume of the butane gas in the flask. If we
measure the temperature of the water (and gas), and we find the mass of the butane gas released by
difference, we now have all the information that is needed to calculate the molar mass of butane.
Partial Pressure: The pressure due to one individual gas within a mixture of gases.
Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures: The total pressure of a mixture of gases is the sum of the
partial pressures of all the individual gases.
Ptotal = PA + PB + PC…
Dalton’s Law applied to the collection of butane gas over water in a pneumatic
trough: Because the water levels are equal, the total pressure inside the Erlenmeyer flask is equal
to the atmospheric pressure in the lab room. According to Dalton’s law, the total pressure inside the
Erlenmeyer flask is the sum of the partial pressures of the two gases it contains, butane and water
vapor. Substitution and algebraic rearrangement give us our final equation (bold).
Patm (outside) = Ptotal (inside)
Ptotal (inside) = Pbutane + PH2O
Patm (outside): the atmospheric pressure in
the lab room
P total (inside): the total pressure inside the
Erlenmeyer flask
Pbutane: the partial pressure of the butane
gas collected inside the Erlenmeyer flask
Pbutane = Patm (outside) – PH2O
PH2O: the partial pressure of the water
vapor inside the Erlenmeyer flask
The atmospheric pressure can be measured with a barometer (ask your instructor for the current
value), and the vapor pressure of the water at the current temperature can be found in the attached
table (see Table 1 below).
Units of pressure: The following definitions and conversion factors are useful
Barometer: A device used to measure the current pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere (which varies
from day to day and decreases with increasing altitude). The pressure is measured by the height
of a column of mercury that can be supported by the atmospheric pressure. The higher the
column of mercury is, the higher the pressure is. Barometer readings usually have units of
millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or inches of mercury (in Hg).
Torr: A torr is a unit of pressure named after Evangelista Torricelli, the Italian scientist who
invented the barometer in 1643.
1 torr = 1 mm Hg (original definition of a torr)
1 torr =
atm (current revised definition)
Still approximately true
(to six decimal places)
Atmosphere: An atmosphere is a unit of pressure representing the average pressure of the Earth’s
atmosphere at sea level. An atmosphere is officially defined as 101,325 Pa (pascal = Newton of
force per square meter), but more useful to us is the relationship below:
1 atm = 760 torr (exact, by definition of a torr)
The Ideal Gas Law: This law relates the four variable properties of a gas (the pressure, volume,
number of moles, and temperature) with a proportionality constant (the Ideal Gas constant).
PV = nRT
Note: all values must be in the correct units
P = pressure in atmospheres (atm)
V = volume in liters (L)
n = number of moles of gas (mol)
R = Ideal gas constant (0.08206 L·atm
T = temperature in Kelvin (K)
Sample calculation of the molar mass of butane: Your original data will differ, but the
conversions and calculations should be similar.
Original Data:
Mass butane cylinder (initial):
Mass butane cylinder (final):
Volume of Erlenmeyer flask (to line):
Atmospheric pressure:
87.63 g
86.98 g
276.1 mL
21.6 °C
30.05 in Hg
Conversions and Calculations:
Mass of butane gas:
87.63 g (initial mass butane cylinder)
− 86.98 g (final mass butane cylinder)
0.65 g (mass butane gas)
Temperature of water and butane gas (in Kelvin):
K = °C + 273.15
21.6 °C
+ 273.15
294.75 K
Volume of butane gas in the Erlenmeyer flask (in liters):
276.1 mL
10−3 L
1 mL
= 0.2761 L
Atmospheric pressure (Patm):
30.05 in Hg
2.54 cm
10−2 m
1 mm
1 torr
1 in
1 cm
10−3 m
1 mm Hg
= 763.27 torr
Partial pressure of butane (Pbutane):
at 21.6 °C (see Table 1 below)
Pbutane = Patm – PH2O
Pbutane = 763.27 torr – 19.359 torr
Pbutane = 743.911 torr
743.911 torr
1 atm
= 0.9788302632 atm
760 torr
Molar mass of butane (using the ideal gas law and the definition of molar mass):
PV = nRT
nbutane =
(0.9788302632 atm) (0.2761 L)
(0.08206 L·atm/K·mol) (294.75 K)
= 0.0111734803 mol butane
0.65 g butane
= 58.17345905 g/mol
mass = mol
0. 0111734803 mol butane
molar mass butane = 58 g/mol
Note: The accepted value for the molar mass of butane (C4H10) is: 58.123 g/mol
C4H10 = 4(12.011 g/mol) + 10(1.0079 g/mol)