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# The Effect of pH on Cellulose Strength Group IV Project

John Weis, IB # 0345-0070 David Elliott, IB # 000345-0019 Clark Walthers, IB # David Abueg, IB # 000345-0001 John Whitby, IB # 000345-0072

Question: How does exposure to solutions with various H+ concentrations affect the strength of balsa wood? Hypothesis: Higher pH will be more destructive to cellulose, weakening the balsa wood the most. Materials: Safety Glasses Rubber gloves 100 mL +/- 0.5 mL graduated cylinder Plastic basin 8.7 M HCl Solid NaOH 4% acetic acid Solid NaHCO3 Water source 1 cm x 1 cm x 50 cm square balsa wood dowels, x5 Electronic balance, +/- 0.001 g Vernier Labquest Vernier Labquest Force Sensor 15 cm segment of 1 diameter PVC pipe Variables: 1. Independent: Solution acidity, determined by dissolving different acidic or basic compounds 2. Dependent: Strength of balsa wood, measured as the maximum force that can be applied to it without breaking 3. Controlled: Dimensions of balsa wood, 1 cm x 1 cm x 10 cm Location of force application, in the middle each time Volume of solution, controlled by using 400 mL each time Balsa wood source, controlled by cutting pieces from the same stick for all 5 solutions Time, controlled by letting each piece of wood soak for 20 minutes Moisture of the wood, controlled by drying all wood overnight before the second phase of testing Container size, controlled by using the same container for all trials Procedure:
1

1. Obtain all materials. 2. Cut each stick into 5 identical pieces 10 cm in length 3. Mark each piece of wood with 1,2,3,4, or 5 dots, depending which stick it came from 4. Place 400 mL of 8.7 M HCl in the container 5. Gently place 1 balsa wood segment each from stick 1,2,3,4, and 5 in the solution. 6. Set the pipe atop them to hold them under the water 7. Wait 20 minutes 8. Rinse the wood with clean water 9. Place the wood on a paper towel to dry overnight 10. Prepare solutions of 4% NaHCO3 and 8.7 M NaOH 11. Repeat steps 2-9 for NaOH, NaHCO3, CH3COOH, and water

Results: Solution HCl NaOH Acetic Acid NaHCO3 water Stick 1 Max force (N) 13.44 18.46 18.19 16.13 19.78 Stick 2 Max force (N) 8.42 9.52 15.98 11.76 15.35 Stick 3 Max force (N) 8.89 17.99 21.87 8.89 12.96 Stick 4 Max force (N) 17.45 27.85 23.31 23.28 23.16 Stick 5 Max force (N) 13.20 11.53 14.04 16.43 16.40

Solution

## HCl NaOH Acetic Acid NaHCO3 water

Stick 1 strength, % difference from stick soaked in water 32.05 6.67 8.03 18.45 0.00

Stick 2 strength, % difference from stick soaked in water 45.14 37.98 -4.10 23.39 0.00

Stick 3 strength, % difference from stick soaked in water 31.40 -38.81 -68.75 31.40 0.00

Stick 1 strength, % difference from stick soaked in water 24.65 -20.25 -0.64 -0.52 0.00

Stick 5 strength, % difference from stick soaked in water 19.51 29.70 14.39 -0.18 0.00

Solution

HCl

## Mean difference in strength from wood soaked in water, % 30.55

Standard Deviation

Standard Error

9.65
2

4.31

## Change in Balsa Wood strength after chemical treatment

Percent change in strength compared to equivalent wood soaked in water 40 30 20 8.7 M HCl 10 0 -10 -20 -30 8.7 M NaOH 4% Acetic Acid 4% Sodium Bicarbonate

Error bars represent Standard Error, hereafter SEM. Statistically significant differences exist only between the HCl and the Acetic Acid and between the HCl and the NaOH. Conclusion: This data is inconclusive about the effect of pH on the strength of balsa wood, beyond saying that HCl is significantly better for its strength than either NaOH or Acetic Acid. No other statistically significant differences in the change in strength from wood soaked in water alone were observed.