The Dumas Reaction

How to obtain methane gas from sodium acetate and sodium hydroxide

Chem­istry gives peo­ple enor­mous ca­pa­bil­i­ties and pow­ers, but they must be used cor­rect­ly and re­spon­si­bly.

Reagents and equip­ment:

  • sodi­um ac­etate;
  • sodi­um hy­drox­ide;
  • ce­ram­ic cup;
  • dry fuel tablet or spir­it burn­er;
  • match­es or lighter.

Step-by-step in­struc­tions

Mix the sodi­um hy­drox­ide and sodi­um ac­etate in a beaker in a ra­tio of 1:1. Put the mix­ture in a ce­ram­ic cup and heat it un­til it melts.

Pro­cess­es de­scrip­tion

When salts of car­bon­ic acids are melt­ed with al­ka­lis (usu­al­ly potas­si­um or sodi­um hy­drox­ide), alka­ne is re­leased, which has a car­bon bond that is one unit short­er than the car­bon­ic acid salt. This re­ac­tion is called the “Du­mas re­ac­tion” in hon­or of the French chemist Jean-Bap­tiste An­dre Du­mas, and is a de­car­boxy­la­tion re­ac­tion, i.e. car­bon diox­ide sep­a­rates from the car­bon­ic acid mol­e­cule.

In this ex­per­i­ment, when sodi­um ac­etate and sodi­um hy­drox­ide are melt­ed to­geth­er, meth­ane is re­leased, and the re­leased car­bon diox­ide in­ter­acts with sodi­um hy­drox­ide, and forms sodi­um car­bon­ate:

СН₃СООН + NaOH → СН₄↑ + Na₂­CO₃

Safe­ty pre­cau­tions

Wear pro­tec­tive gloves and glass­es when con­duct­ing this ex­per­i­ment and ob­serve safe­ty reg­u­la­tions in work­ing with flammable sub­stances and fire.

Warn­ing! Sub­stances of this ex­per­i­ment are tox­ic and high­ly dan­ger­ous for your health. Do not try this at home. Only un­der pro­fes­sion­al su­per­vi­sion.