Beer's Law

background [prelab assignment (33 points); due at the beginning of lab]

This laboratory activity is based on investigations 1 and 2 in your AP chemistry lab manual; thus, it provides some relevant background for the following prelab questions and this laboratory activity. Investigation 1 is about Beer's law, while investigation 2 is about the calibration curve, which is a reflection of Beer's law.

use in-text citation / bibliography as appropriate.

1. run Beer's law simulation (select "Beer's law" icon): turn "on" light source by clicking on red button and select "absorbance" radio button for the detector. investigate: ___; record values of absorbance and value of the variable of interest. [8 points]

2. briefly, describe the following [6 points; 2 points / item]

Beer's law; include relationship between (i) absorption and % transmission and (iii) % transmission, light intensity before / after passing thru the sample

standard or calibration curve, and its application / use


3. sketch a data table (i.e. not calculations) for this lab containing entries for all required experimental measurements (i.e. review purpose & content of lab report) [4 points]

4. spectroscopy [10 points; possible resource - Khan academy]

a. explicitly describe infared and visible (or ultraviolet) spectroscopy and the nature of the interactions in these types of spectroscopy.

b. what are the use, application, or information that can be provided by IR and vis (or UV) spectroscopy ? 

5.  MSDS data on copper (II) nitrate [5 points]

6.  review below "methods" section prior to lab; otherwise, you might be "lost" during the lab, since you won't know how to use the colorimeter; because, this issue won't be addressed during the prelab session (due to shorter block period) 


generate a standard (or calibration) curve

compare the determination of the concentration of Cu2+ in an unknown sample (range: 25 - 250 mM) using an algebraic- versus graphical- method in conjunction with the preceding calibration curve.

fulfill various aspects of the NGSS science & engineering standards; including computational thinking / (cs) computer science


aqueous solution of copper (II) nitrate

colorimeter (a "cheap" spectrophotometer)

water; beakers; test tubes; micropipets; tissue paper

methods - use of probe device - record in your lab notebook, since you will use the colorimeter in a subsequent lab [see link; may use your smart phone during lab to access the link]. remainder of lab methods = student design.

  1. turn-on Xplorer data collection device
  2. insert colorimeter into Xplorer device
  3. open lid, then insert small glass vial (cuvette) filled with water into colorimeter
  4. close lid; should display %T ~ 100 or Abs ~ 0 for all wavelengths;  press "+" on Xplorer - to cycle thru various setting (red, green, blue, & orange, where reading % T or Abs
  5. if %T not ~ 100% or ABS not ~ 0 , then press green button on colorimeter / wait till lights goes off  else goto next step
  6. replace cuvette with samples; press "+" on Xplorer - to cycle thru various setting; record data; repeat with other samples

data analysis

student design


content of the lab report [36 points]

data analysis [15 points]

figure 1:  standard curves using Excel:  include all wavelengths, i.e. colors, and equation & R2 value of the "best" color to use in the analysis

figure 2:  based on preceding graph, using the "best" color (to analyze the data) and graph paper, do a "free-hand" drawing of the graph

determination of the [Cu2+ ] in your sample - show your work using both methods

statistical analysis of class data

discussion [9 points]

is there a difference in the determination of [Cu2+ ] using both methods described in the purpose ?  Support your conclusion based on statistics

what is the rationale of choosing a specific wavelength of light for your determination of [Cu2+ ] ?  [hint:  see prelab question 1 in the below cdf based simulation]

rationalize why blue light has the lowest absorbance by the Cu2+ solution

error analysis (in regards to a cuvette containing the sample) [6 points]

how could the presence of fingerprints on the cuvette affect your determination of [Cu(NO3)2] ?  elaborate / justify your answer.

when would the volume of the sample in the cuvette affect your determination of [Cu(NO3)2] ?  elaborate / justify your answer.

supplemental questions: in regards to figure 1 on p. 26 in the AP chem student lab manual, [6 points]

justify the validity of the equation associated with the figure using Beer's law

if the concentration in the left test tube is 75 µM, then what is the concentration in the right test tube ? justify your answer.


Beer's law:  derivation / regression analysis  [calculus based presentation]

for Excel 2007 tutorials to analyze the calibration curve, see vodcast (@ lab / stats tab)


spectroscopy: visible / UV ; IR ; why broad absorption band ?

simulations (requires cdf player plugin):  guided inquiry into exploring the considerations to select the wavelength to use in the Beer's law lab.

caveats in using Excel for statistics (optional); e.g.

The risks of using spreadsheets for statistical analysis. 2013. (IBM promo)

On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Mircosoft Excel 2010. 2011.

Using Excel for statistical analysis 2010

Statistical analysis using Microsoft Excel 2008

Using Excel for Statistical Data Analysis - Caveats 2007

counter - point: value of using Excel (optional); e.g.

Bridging the Gap between Instructional and Research Laboratories: Teaching Data Analysis Software Skills through the Manipulation of Original Research Data. 2016

Teaching Fundametnal Skills in Microsoft Excel to First-Year Students in Quantitative Analysis. 2015

Review of Advanced Excel for Scientific Data Analysis; 3rd ed. 2012

JCE articles (optional):

statistics: abstract & text & (original) supplement