Determining the Empirical Formula of Potassium Chlorate through Decomposition

Categories: Chemistry


This investigation seeks to elucidate the empirical formula of potassium chlorate (KClO₃) by decomposing it into potassium chloride (KCl) and oxygen (O₂). By carefully measuring the mass before and after the decomposition reaction, and applying stoichiometry, we also aim to discern the composition of an unknown mixture containing potassium chlorate and potassium chloride.


Potassium chlorate, a crystalline solid, is recognized for its potent oxidizing properties. Due to its capacity to release oxygen readily upon heating, it finds extensive use in various applications, albeit with caution due to its explosive potential.

The focus of this lab is to decompose potassium chlorate to potassium chloride and oxygen, enabling the determination of its empirical formula.


The decomposition of potassium chlorate involves the elements potassium (K), chlorine (Cl), and oxygen (O). This reaction requires heat to initiate the liberation of oxygen, leaving behind potassium chloride as the residue. The empirical formula of potassium chlorate can be derived by quantifying the mass of potassium chloride and the released oxygen.

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Reaction Overview

The unbalanced chemical equation for this decomposition is as follows:


Experimental Procedure

Part 1: Determining the Mass of Decomposed Potassium Chlorate

  1. Setup Preparation: Begin by weighing an empty test tube, which contains a catalyst to aid in the reaction.
  2. Sample Preparation: Accurately measure approximately 1.000g of potassium chlorate crystals and transfer them into the test tube.
  3. Heating: Gently heat the test tube over a Bunsen burner flame, ensuring continuous agitation to prevent splattering, until the potassium chlorate decomposes completely.

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  4. Cooling and Weighing: Allow the test tube to cool to room temperature and then record the mass of the test tube with the residue.

Part 2: Analyzing an Unknown Mixture

  1. Repeat the Procedure: Using an unknown sample that contains a mixture of potassium chlorate and potassium chloride, perform the same steps as in Part 1.
  2. Composition Determination: Utilize the balanced equation from Part 1 to calculate the composition of the unknown mixture.

Data and Calculations

Part 1: Empirical Formula Determination

The empirical formula is determined through the following steps:

  1. Mass Calculations: Subtract the mass of the empty test tube from the mass of the test tube plus the sample, and again from the mass with the residue, to find the masses of the sample and the residue, respectively.
  2. Oxygen Mass: The difference between the mass of the sample and the residue gives the mass of the liberated oxygen.
  3. Molar Ratios: Convert the masses of potassium chloride and oxygen to moles to determine their ratio and, consequently, the empirical formula of potassium chlorate.

Part 2: Composition of the Unknown

Using the balanced equation and the mass data from the experiment with the unknown mixture, the composition is determined by applying stoichiometry.

Summary and Conclusion

The empirical formula of potassium chlorate, determined through the decomposition reaction, provides insight into the stoichiometric relationships within this compound. By comparing the experimentally derived formula to the known composition of potassium chlorate, we assess the accuracy of our experimental procedures and calculations.

The stoichiometric analysis of the decomposition reaction further allows for the determination of the composition of an unknown mixture containing potassium chlorate and potassium chloride. This demonstrates the practical application of stoichiometry in identifying and quantifying components in a mixture.

Updated: Feb 28, 2024
Cite this page

Determining the Empirical Formula of Potassium Chlorate through Decomposition. (2024, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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