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5. Explaining water of crystallisation in salt crystals

School Chemistry GCSE level Notes: All about water of crystallisation

The explanation and calculation of water of crystallisation  (re-edit)

Doc Brown's chemistry exam study revision notes: There are various sections to work through and all are suitable for UK GCSE and IGCSE level and US grade 9 and grade 10 science-chemistry students

Water chemistry notes index

5. Water of crystallisation calculations

  • See also chemical calculations

  • Part 14.4 for more examples and questions on water of crystallisation

  • What is water of crystallisation?

    • Water of crystallization are the molecules of water that are incorporated into some salt crystals when they are crystallised out of water.

    • e.g. when blue crystals of copper(II) sulfate are crystallized out of water the actual formula of the crystals is ...

    • NOT simply CuSO4, but on crystallisation CuSO4.5H2O is formed,

    • because five water molecules are associated with each 'CuSO4'. in its 'hydrated' crystalline form.

  • Solubility graphs and data are covered in section 4.

  • How to calculate the theoretical % of water in a hydrated salt

    • eg magnesium sulphate MgSO4.7H2O salt crystals

    • Relative atomic masses: Mg = 24, S = 32, O = 16 and H = 1

    • Relative formula mass of water = (2 x 1) + 16 = 18

    • Relative formula mass of MgSO4 = 24 + 32 + (4 x 16) = 120

    • Relative mass of seven water molecules = 7 x 18 = 126

    • Relative formula mass of crystals = MgSO4 + (7 x H2O) = 120 + 126 = 246

    • so % water = 126 x 100 / 246 = 51.2%

  • Determination and calculation of salt formula containing 'water of crystallisation'.

    • Some salts, when crystallised from aqueous solution, incorporate water molecules into the structure. This is known as 'water of crystallisation', and the 'hydrated' form of the compound.

    • e.g. magnesium sulphate MgSO4.7H2O. The formula can be determined by a simple experiment (see the copper sulphate example below).

    • A known mass of the hydrated salt is gently heated in a crucible until no further water is driven off and the weight remains constant despite further heating. The mass of the anhydrous salt left is measured. The original mass of hydrated salt and the mass of the anhydrous salt residue can be worked out from the various weighings.

    • The % water of crystallisation and the formula of the salt are calculated as follows:

      • Suppose 6.25g of blue hydrated copper(II) sulphate, CuSO4.xH2O, (x unknown) was gently heated in a crucible until the mass remaining was 4.00g. This is the white anhydrous copper(II) sulphate.

      • The mass of anhydrous salt = 4.00g, mass of water (of crystallisation) driven off = 6.25-4.00 = 2.25g

      • The % water of crystallisation in the crystals  is 2.25 x 100 / 6.25 = 36%

      • [ Ar's Cu=64, S=32, O=16, H=1 ]

      • The mass ratio of CuSO4 : H2O is 4.00 : 2.25

      • To convert from mass ratio to mole ratio, you divide by the molecular mass of each 'species'

      • CuSO4 = 64 + 32 + (4x18) = 160 and H2O = 1+1+16 = 18

      • The mole ratio of CuSO4 : H2O is 4.00/160 : 2.25/18

      • which is 0.025 : 0.125 or 1 : 5, so the formula of the hydrated salt is CuSO4.5H2O

      • (Note the more accurate atomic mass of copper is 63.5)

  • See also chemical calculations

  • Part 14.4 for more examples and questions on water of crystallisation

  • All concentration calculations are covered on the on-line CLICK for GCSE Chemical Calculations calculations page, especially sections 7. on molarity, 11. and 12. on molarity and acid-base (alkali) titrations, section 14.3 on dilutions.

  • Advanced level pre-university chemistry notes on the structure of hydrated salts

Practice questions with worked out answers

See Chemical calculations part 14.4

14.4 water of crystallisation calculations


Extra Aqueous Chemistry Index:

1. Water cycle, treatment, pollution

2. Colloids - sols, foam and emulsions

3. Hard and soft water - causes and treatment

4. Gas and salt solubility in water and solubility curves

5. Calculation of water of crystallisation (this page)

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