Calculate the percent error in Avogadro’s number calculated by using the following experimental data.
Pipette calibrated as 30 drops/mL
Diameter of the watch glass: $15.5\ \mathrm{cm}$
Number of drops to complete monolayer: 23
Concentration of stearic acid solution: $1.2\times10^{-4}\ \mathrm{g/mL}$

Updated: My thought on this: I would take $23/30=0.77\ \mathrm{ml}$. Then take $0.77\times1.2\times10^{-4}=9.24\times10^{-5}\ \mathrm g$ of stearic acid. Then $(9.24\times10^{-5})/284.48\ \mathrm g=3.25\times10^{-7}\ \mathrm{mol}$ of stearic acid. Then how do I find the Avogadro's number (molecules per mole)?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Chemistry! This is a homework question. We have a policy which states that ‎you should show your thoughts and/or efforts into solving the problem. It'll make us certain that ‎we aren't doing your homework for you. Otherwise, this question may get closed.‎ Please edit in your full reasoning or thoughts on this. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Oct 9, 2016 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ The question is not entirely clear. However, the biggest error is in the solution concentration as 30 and 23 drops are defined exactly. The mass of stearic acid has a small error also although its error may be smaller than you quote. So propagate errors and then round to correct number of significant figures. The exact mol wt contains exactly Avogadro's number of molecules. $\endgroup$
    – porphyrin
    Oct 9, 2016 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


When a problem requires calculations using values, always write the values with the correct units and carry the units through the calculation. Do not omit the units while performing intermediate steps and do not just reintroduce units at the end of the calculation.

Nevertheless, your approach is correct. You calculated the volume of the solution as $$\begin{align} V_\text{solution}&=\frac{23}{30\ \mathrm{ml^{-1}}}\tag{1}\\[6pt] &=0.77\ \mathrm{ml}\tag{2} \end{align}$$ the concentration as $$\begin{align} c&=\frac n{V_\text{solution}}=\frac m{M\cdot V_\text{solution}}\tag{3}\\[6pt] &=\frac \gamma M\tag{4}\\[6pt] &=\frac{1.2\times10^{-4}\ \mathrm{g\ ml^{-1}}}{284.48\ \mathrm{g\ mol^{-1}}}\tag{5}\\[6pt] &=4.2\times10^{-7}\ \mathrm{mol\ ml^{-1}}\tag{6} \end{align}$$ and the amount of stearic acid as $$\begin{align} n&=c\cdot V_\text{solution}\tag{7}\\[6pt] &=\frac{1.2\times10^{-4}\ \mathrm{g\ ml^{-1}}}{284.48\ \mathrm{g\ mol^{-1}}}\cdot\frac{23}{30\ \mathrm{ml^{-1}}}\tag{8}\\[6pt] &=3.2\times10^{-7}\ \mathrm{mol}\tag{9} \end{align}$$

Furthermore, you can calculate the area of the surface as $$\begin{align} A&=\pi r^2\tag{10}\\[6pt] &=\frac{\pi d^2}4\tag{11}\\[6pt] &=\frac{\pi \left(15.5\ \mathrm{cm}\right)^2}4\tag{12}\\[6pt] &=189\ \mathrm{cm^2}\tag{13} \end{align}$$

For simplicity’s sake, you may assume that a single stearic acid molecule is a small block with a length $l$ and a width $w$.

stearic acid

Depending on the used model, you may find that the ratio is roughly


Assuming that the surface is densely packed with stearic acid molecules, the number $N$ of molecules can be estimated as $$N=\frac A{w^2}\tag{15}$$

The corresponding volume of stearic acid is

$$\begin{align} V&=A\cdot l\tag{16}\\[6pt] &=A\cdot 6w\tag{17} \end{align}$$

You also know that $$\begin{align} V&=\frac m\rho\tag{18}\\[6pt] &=\frac {n\cdot M}\rho\tag{19} \end{align}$$

where $\rho$ is the density of stearic acid. Instead of using the density of solid stearic acid at room temperature, you may want to assume the density of liquid stearic acid close to its melting point, which is

$$\rho=0.847\ \mathrm{g\ cm^{-3}}\tag{20}$$

Solving $\text{(17)}$ for $w$ and inserting the result into $\text{(15)}$ yields


And inserting $\text{(19)}$ for $V$ yields

$$N=A\cdot\left(\frac{6A\cdot\rho}{n\cdot M}\right)^2\tag{22}$$

The Avogadro constant is defined as $$N_\mathrm A=\frac Nn\tag{23}$$

Inserting $\text(22)$ for $N$ yields

$$\begin{align} N_\mathrm A&=\frac{A\cdot\left(\frac{6A\cdot\rho}{n\cdot M}\right)^2}{n}\tag{24}\\[6pt] &=\left(\frac{6\rho}{M}\right)^2\left(\frac An\right)^3\tag{25}\\[6pt] &=\left(\frac{6\times0.847\ \mathrm{g\ cm^{-3}}}{284.48\ \mathrm{g\ mol^{-1}}}\right)^2\left(\frac{189\ \mathrm{cm^2}}{3.2\times10^{-7}\ \mathrm{mol}}\right)^3\tag{26}\\[6pt] &=6.6\times10^{22}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}\tag{27} \end{align}$$

Even when taking the uncertainty of the used values into account, this result is significantly smaller than the literature value of the Avogadro constant. Therefore, you may conclude that a large part of the difference may be attributed to experimental error. I guess, you did not use the floating device method to push the stearic acid molecules together, which makes sure that the molecules are densely packed and lined up on the surface of the water with polar heads on the surface and nonpolar tails sticking up away from the surface.


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