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LAB in Acid Base Reactions, Heat of Neutralization. Last updated August 17, 2019.


In this lab, students carry out an acid base reaction to calculate the heat of neutralization.

Grade Level

High school

AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework

This lab activity supports the following units, topics, and learning objectives:

  • Unit 4: Chemical Reactions
    • Topic 4.2: Net Ionic Equations
      • TRA-1.B: Represent changes in matter with a balanced chemical or net ionic equation: a. For physical changes. b. For given information about the identity of the reactants and/or product. c. For ions in a given chemical reaction.
    • Topic 4.7: Types of Chemical Reactions
      • TRA-2.A: Identify a reaction as acid-base, oxidation-reduction, or precipitation.
  • Unit 6: Thermodynamics
    • Topic 6.4: Heat Capacity and Calorimetry
      • ENE-2.D: Calculate the heat q absorbed or released by a system undergoing heating/ cooling based on the amount of the substance, the heat capacity, and the change in temperature.
    • Topic 6.6: Introduction to Enthalpy of Reaction
      • ENE-2.F: Calculate the heat q absorbed or released by a system undergoing a chemical reaction in relationship to the amount of the reacting substance in moles and the molar enthalpy of reaction.


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to

  • Understand the heat of neutralization.
  • Understand how exothermic reactions work.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Heat of neutralization
  • Acids and bases


Teacher Preparation: 1 hour

Lesson: 1 class period


  • Foam cup
  • Foam cup with hole
  • 50-mL graduated cylinder
  • Thermometer
  • 1.0-M HCl
  • 1.0-M NaOH
  • Beaker (optional)


  • Always wear safety goggles when working with chemicals.
  • When working with acids, if any solution gets on students’ skin, they should immediately alert you and thoroughly flush their skin with water.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.

Teacher Notes

  • Students can be given a target temperature change to create in a set amount of water. They should select the appropriate salt (based on positive or negative temperature change) and use proportional math to calculate the amount of salt needed.
  • This is an activity that I designed with a colleague over the past school year. We have several other target labs that we do through the year. Neither of us has seen a lab like this previously, and together we have nearly 20 years of experience.

For the Student



A chemical reaction involves breaking bonds and forming new bonds. This change is always accompanied by an exchange in energy. If energy is released to the surroundings then the reaction is exothermic and the products have less energy than the reactants. If energy is absorbed from the surroundings then the reaction is endothermic and the products have more energy than the reactants.

Energy exchanges when a substance dissociates and dissolves in water. For example, when sodium hydroxide pellets are added to water, the temperature of the water can become so hot that the solution steams. Hot packs and cold packs used by athletes contain compounds that release or absorb heat when dissolved in water. The heat associated with a process like this is called the heat of solution.

Hot Pack CaCl2+ H2O ⇾ Ca2+ + 2Cl-+ H2O + Heat

Cold Pack NH4NO3 + H2O+ Heat ⇾ NH4++ NO3-+ H2O

In this lab, aqueous sodium hydroxide and aqueous hydrochloric acid will neutralize each other and heat will be released. This heat is called the heat of neutralization or the heat of reaction.

Prelab Questions

  1. Define the word neutralization.
  2. Write the balanced molecular equation, complete ionic equation, and net ionic equation of the reaction between sodium hydroxide solution and hydrochloric acid solution.

Molecular Equation

Complete Ionic Equation

Net Ionic Equation

  1. A chemical reaction involves _ bonds and bonds. This change is always accompanied by an exchange in _.
  2. An exothermic process occurs when energy is to the surroundings while an endothermic process occurs when energy is from the surroundings.
  3. The reaction is highly (endothermic/exothermic) and produces molten iron and a flame that will burn under water.
  4. The dissolution of calcium chloride _______ (absorbs/releases) heat to the surroundings while the dissolution of ammonium nitrate (absorbs/ releases) heat from the surroundings.
  5. Hot packs use (endothermic/exothermic) reactions while cold packs use ____________ (endothermic/exothermic).
  6. The energy released when solid sodium hydroxide is dissolved in water would best be described as the heat of ___________ (reaction, neutralization, solution).


  1. Obtain two foam cups; one with a hole and one without a hole.
  2. Obtain a clean dry 50-mL graduated cylinder. Obtain exactly 30.0 mL of a 1.0-M NaOH solution. Insert a thermometer into the graduated cylinder and record the temperature to the nearest tenth degree.
  3. Obtain a second clean dry 50-mL graduated cylinder. Obtain exactly 30.0 mL of a 1.0-M HCl solution. Rinse and dry the thermometer used earlier, then take the temperature of HCl to the nearest tenth degree.
  4. If both solutions are the same temperature, then proceed. If the temperatures do not agree, wait 5 minutes and retake temperatures.
  5. Transfer the NaOH into the foam cup. Then pour the HCl into the foam cup. Quickly, place the cup with the hole on top of the solution. Insert the thermometer through the hole and gently stir. Stabilize the cup by having one person stir, while another holds the cup or place the cup in a beaker.
  6. Record the highest temperature by the resulting solution.


Temperature of NaOH solution


Temperature of HCl solution


Highest Temperature of solution formed by mixing NaOH and HCl


Molarity of HCl solution


Volume of HCl solution



Temperature change of solution mixture


Total mass of solutions assuming density of 1.0 g/mL



Specific heat of solution assuming the same

specific heat as water

4.184 J/g °C

Heat released by neutralization reaction


Moles of HCl used


Heat of neutralization per mole of HCl Joules


Heat of neutralization per mole of HCl kilojoules



Two assumptions were made in this lab. What are they?