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Name: Kennedy Jr. High
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999 

Hello from Kennedy Jr. High. We have been doing some experiments with salt. We know that salt will lower the temp of water by 3 - 5 degrees C when added to water. We also know that salt will lower the freezing point of water. We are not sure why What is happening? Is an endothermic reaction taking place? Also, when adding salt to water, does the boiling point also decrease? Or increase or stay the same? Our results seem to indicate that the boiling point is reduced. Is this true? If so (or not) What is going on with the water and the salt molecules to change freezing and boiling points? Can you help? Thanks

When you add a salt to water and the container feels cold, yes, an endothermic reaction is taking place. The solution is grabbing heat from the surroundings to get the salt to dissolve. When you add a salt to a pure solvent (say, water), the freezing point will go down and the boiling point will go up. That's because the vapor pressure of the pure solvent is lowered (this would be easier to explain with a phase diagram). Remember, the definition of BP is the temp at which the solution's vapor pressure equals the external pressure. By lowering the vapor pressure, the whole phase diagram shifts...BP to the right (higher), FP to the left (lower). You may want to check out a intro level chemistry text or at least draw out the phase diagram to see more clearly what gets lost is just words here. Did you ever try boiling water without heating it? If you have the means, hook up a vacuum to a flask of water. You don't change the vapor pressure of the water, but you reduce the external pressure enough so that the water does boil. Good question!

-Joe Schultz

One more thing... The change in BP and FP is related to how much salt is added to the solvent: delta T (change in T) = Km where K is either what's called the molal freezing-point depression constant or molal boiling-point elevation constant; m is the molality of the solution defined as moles of solute (salt) / kilograms of solvent. By knowing the constant for the solvent, how much solvent you have and how much solute you add, you can predict by how much (in degrees C) the BP or FP will change. Hope all this wasn't too far out there for Jr. High?!

Good luck.


Excellent question and answers... I would just like to add a couple of more comments... The reaction that is endothermic in this case is NaCl(s) --> Na+(aq) + Cl-(aq) ... The reason that the freezing point is lowered is as J. Schultz said - the vapor pressure is lowered.... However there is a simple analogy (that may be useful) which gives a simplified picture... Freezing involves the water molecules becoming very ordered in crystalline lattice... However when there are foreign particles such as Na+ and Cl- ions in the water they hinder the formation of the crystalline structure because they interfere with the intermolecular forces between the water molecules. Also, the freezing point depression and boiling point elevation are called colligative properties... that is, they are properties that depend only on the number of solute particles and not on their chemical properties... The third famous colligative property is osmotic pressure.

-Dr. Brown

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