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WKU SPAN Chemistry Class - Distillation Lab


If you have lived in Kentucky very long you know what “hard water” is and how it leaves a scale on our bathroom fixtures, clogs our hot water tanks, makes it hard for soaps to lather and clean our clothes, leaves spots on glasses and dishes, and even affect the taste of the coffee or tea we drink, but did you know this could also contribute to the amount of kidney stones experienced in by many adults? Calcium and Magnesium ions dissolved in our water can settle out or become a precipitate, leaving the water, which are the effects we notice visually. These ions along with chloride and sulfate ions are very common in our water supply and typically we simply learn to deal with hard water as a way of life in Kentucky. If you need or want to reduce the amount of these ions, especially calcium and magnesium, consider getting a water filter for your faucet tap or refrigerator. For more information on hard water in Kentucky, see the following article on Hard Water – To Soften or Not to Soften, by the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture. 

If you are a MCHS WKU student in chemistry, you get to investigate how to test for these dissolved ions and then physically separate the pure water from the dissolved minerals/ions and prove that distillation is an absolute way to obtain the purest form of H2O, albeit a more expensive and time consuming approach. In the first picture, Elena Bonitz, Gabe Newby, Kara Brooke Shive and Tatum Hensley watching their groups’ distillation in process, as the Bunsen burner provides the heat to boil the H2O to a vapor, which is then directed to the condenser tube that cools the H2O vapor back to a liquid, to be collected. In the second picture, Austin Turner, Ethan White, Dakota Tiller and Jacob Miller discuss the before and after chemical tests for dissolved ions to make sure they report their findings accurately.

By Scott Roach

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