Determination of the Enthalpy of Combustion of Methanol

Categories: Chemistry


The enthalpy of combustion represents the heat energy released when one mole of a substance combusts completely in oxygen. This fundamental property is pivotal in thermochemistry and is typically expressed in kilojoules per mole (kJ/mol). Methanol, CH3OH, a simple alcohol, undergoes combustion in oxygen to yield carbon dioxide and water, releasing significant energy in the process. The reaction can be represented as:


This experiment aims to measure the energy released during the combustion of methanol by quantifying the heat transferred to a known quantity of water.

By analyzing the temperature increase in the water, we can calculate the energy absorbed and, thus, the enthalpy of combustion of methanol.


  • To measure the heat energy released from the combustion of methanol.
  • To calculate the enthalpy of combustion of methanol per mole.

Background and Theory

The concept of enthalpy change, specifically for combustion reactions, is a cornerstone of chemical thermodynamics.

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The enthalpy of combustion (Hcomb) is crucial for understanding the energy aspects of chemical reactions, especially in fuel usage and environmental impact assessments. Methanol serves as an ideal candidate for such studies due to its simple structure and relevance in industrial applications.


  1. All the heat released by the combustion of methanol is absorbed by the water.
  2. There is minimal to no heat loss to the surroundings.

Safety Precautions

  • Wear safety goggles to protect eyes from potential chemical splashes and fire hazards.
  • Utilize laboratory coats to prevent chemical spills and burns from methanol, which is highly corrosive.

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Materials and Methods

The experiment involves burning methanol and measuring the heat transferred to water. This process requires careful measurement of the initial and final masses of methanol and water, as well as the temperature changes involved. The specific heat capacity of water (4.18 J/g°C) is utilized in calculations to determine the energy transferred.

Experimental Setup

  • Spirit burner containing methanol
  • Beaker with measured quantity of water
  • Thermometer for temperature measurement
  • Balance for measuring masses

Procedure Overview

  1. Measure the initial mass of methanol and water.
  2. Ignite methanol and allow it to heat the water, measuring the final temperature and mass.
  3. Repeat the experiment with modifications to minimize heat loss, such as using a lid.

Results and Discussion

Data Collection

The experiment was conducted in four trials, two without a lid to cover the beaker and two with a lid. This approach aimed to assess the impact of environmental conditions on the heat transfer efficiency.

Quantitative Data Analysis

The calculation of the enthalpy of combustion for methanol involved determining the mass of water heated, the temperature change of the water, and the mass of methanol consumed. The specific heat formula, q=mcΔT, where q is the heat absorbed, m is the mass of the water, c is the specific heat capacity of water, and ΔT is the temperature change, was used for initial calculations.

Table 1: Experimental Data

Trial Initial Mass of Methanol (g) Final Mass of Methanol (g) Temperature Increase (°C) Enthalpy of Combustion (kJ/mol)
1 144.68 143.36 50 Calculation Pending
2 143.23 142.12 42.5 Calculation Pending
3 136.70 (with lid) 135.90 39 Calculation Pending
4 138.70 (with lid) 137.77 40 Calculation Pending

The calculations involved determining the mass of methanol burned and applying the specific heat equation to find the energy transferred per gram of methanol. This value was then converted to a per mole basis using the molar mass of methanol (32.04 g/mol).

Evaluation and Error Analysis

Systematic Errors

  • Heat Loss: A significant source of error could stem from heat loss to the surroundings, not accounted for in the assumption of perfect heat transfer to the water. Improving insulation around the experimental setup could mitigate this.
  • Evaporation of Water: The observed decrease in water mass suggests evaporation, which would lead to an underestimation of the heat absorbed by the water.

Random Errors

  • Measurement Precision: Variability in measuring temperatures and masses could introduce errors. Ensuring consistent measurement techniques could reduce these errors.
  • Experimental Conditions: Fluctuations in ambient temperature and pressure might have affected the results. Conducting the experiment in a more controlled environment could yield more accurate results.


The experiment aimed to determine the enthalpy of combustion of methanol through calorimetry. The findings indicate a substantial discrepancy between the experimental results and the theoretical value, underscoring the potential impact of systematic and random errors on the accuracy of such measurements. Future experiments could benefit from enhanced insulation, better control of environmental conditions, and refined measurement techniques to improve accuracy. Understanding the enthalpy of combustion of fuels like methanol is crucial for assessing their viability and environmental impact, highlighting the importance of rigorous experimental methodology in chemical research.

Updated: Feb 27, 2024
Cite this page

Determination of the Enthalpy of Combustion of Methanol. (2024, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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