Young chemists play waiting game

Young chemists play waiting game

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Southern River College Year 11 students Jaishree Charan and Pratishee Luchoomun work on their titration skills.

Southern River College year 11 and 12 students are playing the waiting game in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s national Titration competition, with results pending for their first round of analysis.

As SRC chemistry teacher Michael Beard explains, titration – the process of determining the amount of an unknown chemical in a solution – is as much an art as it is a science.

“The point of titration is to figure out the number value of a chemical when you don’t know what it is,” he said.

“Titration’s in a way are a bit of an artform, they’re the kind of thing where if you look at them the wrong way, you’ll get a completely different result to what you got before.

“They’re incredibly difficult and require a lot of skill to get precisely, and you want to get repeatable results when you do it.”

The RACI’s competition hasn’t run for the last couple of years due to COVID, and Mr Beard leapt at the opportunity to get his students involved.

“We put our names forward, we showed the kids what they’d be doing and they all got super excited about it, particularly the Year 12s because they’d done one earlier in the year, so they were eager to revisit those skills.

“It’s done all over the country, so we got our results in a week early but now we’re waiting on the results from schools in every other State so the results for the first round of analysis might be a few months away.

“The students were working with a chemical called potassium hydrogen phthalate, which is a general acid, non-toxic, used in foods as a preservative, so they had to determine the concentration of that in an unknown sample.

“Based on how close their number are to the actual numbers, that will determine if they progress to the next round.”