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ERIC Number: EJ1062340
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 5
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 11
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Measuring the Speed of Sound through Gases Using Nitrocellulose
Molek, Karen Sinclair; Reyes, Karl A.; Burnette, Brandon A.; Stepherson, Jacob R.
Journal of Chemical Education, v92 n5 p762-766 2015
Measuring the heat capacity ratios, ?, of gases either through adiabatic expansion or sound velocity is a well established physical chemistry experiment. The most accurate experiments depend on an exact determination of sound origin, which necessitates the use of lasers or a wave generator, where time zero is based on an electrical trigger. Other experiments use loudspeakers as the sound source, which eliminates the ability to accurately measure time zero of sound generation. To date, experimental heat capacity ratio data have been reported for measurements at room temperature. We have designed an apparatus to directly measure the speed of sound generated as a result of nitrocellulose ignition via two microphones. Our experimental design also provides the ability to measure the speed of sound at various temperatures and thus determine the heat capacity ratio as a function of temperature. When implemented in a junior-level physical chemistry laboratory course, students learned to use equipment with which they were unfamiliar, such as home-built ignition circuits, a vacuum pump, thermocouple temperature and vacuum gauges, gas cylinders, and an oscilloscope. Students used the data to determine the speed of sound and heat capacity ratio through nitrogen, carbon dioxide, atmospheric air, and argon gases both at 298 K and approximately 253 K. Error analyses of the experimental speed of sound and heat capacity ratio using percent error and propagation of error were performed to ensure a high level of accuracy and precision.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Florida