December 7, 2016.  In middle-school science class, we’re learning about chemical reactions and catalysis with a very quantitative bent. We’re synthesizing ethyl acetate from a balanced (equimolar) combination of ordinary alcohol (ethanol) and acetic acid, with some sulfuric acid as a catalyst.  We heat the mixture with heating tape, controlled in heating rate with an autotransformer.  We’ll distill the ethyl acetate from the mixture in the next period of our science class.  Teacher Dr. Vince Gutschick reviewed the theory of distillation, with calculations of the distillate composition over time.  The claim is that the odor of ethyl acetate is that of pear oil, but in concentrated form it smells like (and is) nail-polish remover.

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