An esterification kinetics experiment that relies on the sense of smell

Bromfield-Lee, Deborah C.
Oliver-Hoyo, Maria T.
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Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society
This experiment involves an esterification synthesis to study reaction kinetics where students explore these topics utilizing the sense of smell rather than the traditional approach of using spectroscopic methods. Students study the effects of various factors including the concentration of the carboxylic acid and the amounts of the catalyst or alcohols added. The kinetics in relation to the molecular structure is studied by changing the chain lengths and branching of alcohols or the carboxylic acids and inferring the effects on rates of the reaction from the rates of ester detection. Since many esters have naturally occurring aromas that are pleasant and easily recognized, this experiment studies esterification kinetics using the sense of smell to detect the emergence of the ester aroma formed during the reaction. Feedback from students strongly suggests their interest in the experiment as they discovered that their sense of smell could be used as an analytical tool.
Chemistry--Study and teaching (Higher) , Smell , Chemical kinetics , Esterification
Bromfield-Lee, D. C., & Oliver-Hoyo, M. T. (2009). An esterification kinetics experiment that relies on the sense of smell. Journal of Chemical Education, 86(1), 82-84.