This page is adapted from an existing experiment in the literature (Bromfield-Lee and Oliver-Hoyo, 2009).
In this experiment students explore the time taken for a critical concentration of ester to form when the structures of alcohol and carboxylic acid are varied.
Esters are typically sweet smelling compounds, characterised by the RCOOR’ structure. They are often used in flavourings and perfumes. They also have low boiling points and make good polar solvents.
Fischer Esterification is the esterification of a Carboxylic acid by heating it with an alcohol in the presence of a strong acid catalyst.
General Experimental Procedure
The way in R groups influence the kinetics of the reaction can be explored by changing EITHER the alcohol or carboxylic acid. This can be done by the following procedure:
- Get into small groups
- Choose 1 carboxylic acid per group
- Mix this with different alcohols in 1:1 ratios in the presence of a few drops of concentrated sulfuric acid. This can be done in a test tube, placed in a hot water bath. Note down the smell of the different esters and the time in which they take to form
- Compare the results of the different carboxylic acids between groups and tabulate your findings