# ANALYSIS OF PHOSPHORUS IN PLANT FOOD

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1 Experiment 10 ANALYSIS OF PHOSPHORUS IN PLANT FOOD Adapted by Ross S. Nord, Eastern Michigan University, from Analysis of Phosphorous in Fertilizer found at PURPOSE To introduce students to developing their own data analysis methodology, rather than being told exactly what calculations to perform. Also, to introduce students to solution preparation using mass percent (rather than the more common unit of molarity). PLANT FOOD Plant foods and fertilizers are often labeled with three numbers corresponding to the mass (weight) percents of the various nutrients present. These nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus (present as P 2 O 5 ), and potassium (present as K 2 O). Therefore, a bag of lawn fertilizer labeled would contain 28% nitrogen, 3% P 2 O 5, and 4% K 2 O, by weight. In this experiment we will analyze a sample of plant food to determine the value of the second number (%P 2 O 5 ). [Note the second number in plant foods is typically considerably higher than in lawn fertilizers.] PHOSPHORUS ANALYSIS When plant food is added to water, each mole of P 2 O 5 in it reacts to form two moles of phosphoric acid: P 2 O 5 (aq) + 3 H 2 O(l) 2 H 3 PO 4 (aq) (1) An excess of Epsom salts (MgSO 4 ) and aqueous ammonia (NH 3, also written NH 4 OH) is added to this solution. Ammonia is a weak base that generates hydroxide ions, OH -, which neutralize the phosphoric acid, converting it into monohydrogen phosphate ions: H 3 PO 4 (aq) + 2 OH (aq) HPO 4 2 (aq) + 2 H 2 O(l) (2) The magnesium ions from the Epsom salts react with the HPO 4 - and NH 4 OH to form a compound that precipitates from solution as follows: HPO 4 2 (aq) + NH 4 + (aq) + Mg 2+ (aq) +OH (aq) + 5 H 2 O(l) NH 4 MgPO 4 6H 2 O(s) (3) Note that a weak base (ammonia) is used to generate the hydroxide ions needed for reaction to occur. If you recall the solubility rules, you may remember that Mg(OH) 2 is insoluble and so using a strong base to rapidly add hydroxide ions could precipitate out the Mg 2+ ions as Mg(OH) 2 (s) rather than the desired phosphoruscontaining compound. This is also why the ammonia will be added slowly during the experiment. 10-1

2 The compound that is produced, NH 4 MgPO 4 6H 2 O, is called ammonium magnesium phosphate hexahydrate. As a solid mineral it has another name, struvite. It is what we call a double salt as it contains two different cations (NH 4 + and Mg 2+ ). The hexahydrate indicates that when this ionic compound crystallizes it incorporates 6 moles of water into the structure for each mole of NH 4 MgPO 4. This is important since the mass of the water must be included when determining its molar mass. NONESSENTIAL, BUT INTERESTING, BACKGROUND ON STRUVITE This mineral was first isolated from medieval sewer lines. Not surprisingly, it can be used to produce fertilizer and research is ongoing to viably extract it from wastewater, or animal wastes, and process it into commercially useful forms. Some bladder (or kidney) stones, particularly those caused by certain bacterial infections, are composed of struvite. This is quite common in housecats, as well as humans. [Author s note: on average, women rate the pain of kidney stones as similar to that of childbirth. Having experienced a bout of kidney stones, the author has an improved understanding and respect for women who have given birth.] Recent research has shown that struvite begins to decompose (dehydrate) at temperatures as low as 40 o C and it has been suggested that prolonged warming of the kidney area may be able to shrink kidney stones in patients who experience this type of stone. MASS PERCENT REVIEW Mass percent is defined as follows: % component = IN THIS EXPERIMENT mass component x 100% total sample mass A measured quantity of plant food will be reacted with excess magnesium sulfate and ammonia to precipitate ammonium magnesium phosphate. From the amount of precipitate recovered, the mass percent of diphosphorus pentoxide in the plant food will be determined. PRE-LABORATORY PREPARATION 1. Read the procedure and data analysis sections of this experiment. 2. Complete the computer-generated PRELAB assignment. The prelab questions for this experiment provide practice with the types of calculations you will need to complete the data analysis section. EXPERIMENTAL SECTION Plant Food, solid. REAGENTS PROVIDED Epsom Salts (MgSO 4 7H 2 O), solid. Aqueous Ammonia (NH 4 OH), 1 M. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT WASTE DISPOSAL All liquid wastes can go down the drain. Your final solid product should be put in the appropriate waste container. Used filter paper can go in the trash cans. Buret stands and suction filtration apparatuses should be available in the lab. 10-2

5 Name Station Used Instructor/Day/Time _ Partner Partner Station Checked & Approved DATA SHEET Be sure to record all data with the proper number of digits and correct units. Briefly describe how you prepared the 10% solution of MgSO 4 7H 2 O (Epsom salts): Brand of Plant Food Analyzed: Mass of Plant Food used: Mass of watch glass plus filter paper: Mass of watch glass, filter paper, and WET NH 4 MgPO 4 6H 2 O: Copy the first three values onto the Yield Report page of the experiment before turning in your data sheet. 10-5

6 DATA ANALYSIS Determine the mass percent of P 2 O 5 in the plant food sample that you analyzed. You may attach additional sheets of paper, if necessary. Be sure to: 1. Clearly specify and label any molar masses you determine and use in the calculations. 2. Clearly indicate the relevant stoichiometric relationship between moles of P 2 O 5 and moles of NH 4 MgPO 4 6H 2 O. WET Mass Percent P 2 O 5 in your plant food sample: (Since the product was still wet when you weighed it, you will not be graded on the accuracy of the mass percent. You will only be graded on whether the calculation was done correctly.) Turn in your Data Sheet and Data Analysis at the end of lab. You will turn in the Yield Report next lab. 10-6

7 Name Instructor/Day/Time YIELD REPORT This page will be turned in after the product has been reweighed, when it has had a chance to dry overnight. Brand of Plant Food Analyzed: Mass of Plant Food used: Mass of watch glass plus filter paper: Mass of watch glass, filter paper, and DRY NH 4 MgPO 4 6H 2 O: Determine the mass percent of P 2 O 5 in the plant food sample that you analyzed. (This is the same calculation you did for the wet product during the last lab period, only the mass of product has changed.) Show your calculation. Mass Percent P 2 O 5 in your plant food sample: 10-7

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