Video: EC17-18-S1-Q25

Use chemical equations to show how the product of the reaction of ethyl alcohol with concentrated sulfuric acid depends on the number of alcohol molecules.

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Video Transcript

Use chemical equations to show how the product of the reaction of ethyl alcohol with concentrated sulfuric acid depends on the number of alcohol molecules.

Of course, another name for ethyl alcohol is ethanol, which has this structure. What this question is asking is what happens differently when you have multiple equivalents of ethanol versus having only one equivalent when reacting with concentrated sulfuric acid. I’m going to deal with a scenario where we have two molecules of ethanol to start with. Concentrated sulfuric acid is a potent dehydrating agent. With a little bit of a kick with heating to 140 degrees Celsius, two equivalents of ethanol will react to form diethyl ether and water. Of course, this reaction will happen over a range of temperatures and conditions. But 140 degrees Celsius is appropriate.

What about the case when we only have one equivalent of ethanol? This is a case of the direct dehydration of ethanol. And as such, it requires a little bit more heat. 180 degrees Celsius is appropriate. The products are ethene and water. A viable alternative to the treatment of one equivalent of ethanol with sulfuric acid is the production of ethyl hydrogen sulfate at a much lower 80 degrees Celsius. Either answer would be acceptable.

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