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Doc Brown's Chemistry  Qualitative Methods of Analysis Revision Notes

PART 1 INTRODUCTION and chemical identification test index (repeated on each page)

Introduction to qualitative analysis tests to identify inorganic gases & ions (cations/anions) and organic molecule functional groups

Part 1 Introduction to chemical testing – alphabetical list (this page)

Part 2 Qualitative tests to identify organic molecule functional groups of homologous series

Part 3 TESTS for Metal cations (positive ions), metal carbonates, ammonium ion, hydrogen ions (acids)

Part 4 TESTS for Gases, water and non–metallic elements

Part 5 TESTS for Anions (negative ions) including hydroxide (alkalis)

APPENDIX 1. IDENTIFYING ELEMENTS from LINE SPECTRA (non-chemical test method)

some associated revising links

GCSE/IGCSE Revision QUIZ on chemical tests for identifying ions, gases and compounds

A Level Quantitative analysis: acid–base, silver nitrate–chloride, EDTA titrations

A Level Quantitative analysis: Redox titrations

 Part 1 Test Index and Introduction

Full list of KEYWORDS for inorganic/organic identification methods in alphabetical order e.g. test/reagent for: * acid ==> H+ * acid/acyl chloride RCOCl * alcohols – general ROH/prim RCH2OH/sec R2CHOH/tert R3COH) * aldehyde RCHO * prim aliphatic amine R–NH2 * aliphatic/aromatic carboxylic acids * alkali ==> OH * alkane/alkene >C=C</alkyne –CC– (saturated versus unsaturated) * aluminium/aluminum ion Al3+ * amide RCONH2 * prim aliphatic amines R–NH2 * ammonia gas NH3 * ammonium ion NH4+ * prim aromatic amine C6H5–NH2 etc. * barium ion Ba2+ * Benedict's solution * Brady's reagent * bromide ion Br * bromine Br2 * caesium ion Cs+ * calcium ion Ca2+ by flame or hydroxide ppt. * carbonate CO32–/hydrogencarbonate HCO3 with acid or effect of heating metal carbonate e.g. MCO3 * carbon dioxide gas CO2 * carboxylic acid RCOOH * carboxylic acid (aliphatic) salts e.g. RCOONa+ * chloride ion Cl * chlorine gas Cl2 * Chomate(VI) ion CrO42– * copper(II) ion Cu2+ by flame or hydroxide ppt. * 24DNPH (for aldehydes/ketones test) * esters RCOOR * Fehlings test/solution * flame test for metal ions * fluoride ion F * haloalkanes/halogenoalkanes R–X * hydrogen gas H2 * hydrogen sulphide H2S * hydrogen ion, acids H+ * hydrogen bromide gas/hydrobromic acid HBr * hydrogen chloride gas/hydrochloric acid HCl * hydrogen iodide gas/hydriodic acid HI * hydroxide ion, alkali OH * hydroxy/alcohol/phenol (organic) * iodide ion I * iodine I2 * iodoform test – formation of CHI3 * iron(II) ion Fe2+ * iron(III) ion Fe3+ * ketone R2C=O * lead(II) ion Pb2+ * lithium ion Li+ * lime water Ca(OH)2(aq) * magnesium ion Mg2+ * metal carbonates–heating e.g. MCO3 * metal ions via hydroxide precipitate * nitrate or nitrate(V) NO3 * nitrite or nitrate(III) NO2 * nitrogen dioxide or nitrogen(IV) oxide NO2 * oxygen gas O2 * phenols C6H5OH etc. * potassium ion K+ * rubidium ion Rb+ * reducing sugars * saturated/unsaturated * silver nitrate AgNO3 (see chloride, bromide, iodide tests) * sugars (reducing) * sodium ion Na+ * strontium Sr+ * 'sulphate/sulfate' or sulphate(VI) SO42– * sulphide S2 * 'sulphite/sulfite' or sulphate(IV) SO32– * sulphur dioxide gas SO2 * Tollen's Reagent * unsaturated/saturated * water H2O * zinc ion Zn2+ *

Use the alphabetical test list above for identifying anions, cations, gases, molecules etc. to find what you require! for your KS3–KS4 Science–GCSE–IGCSE– Chemistry and GCE–AS–A2–IB–US grades 9–12 K12 advanced subsidiary chemistry course etc. and help you to identify unknown inorganic and organic compounds–molecules for qualitative analysis. Its also a good idea to read the brief notes after the alphabetical list.

Advanced Chemistry Page Index and LinksEMAIL query?comment?test missing? * Gas PreparationsHazard warning signs/symbols–examples of labelling


  • Most of the tests describe use simple apparatus like test tubes, teat pipette, wire for flame test (nichrome, platinum best but costly) and standard chemical reagents accessible in most school or college laboratories.

  • Where possible balanced symbol equations are given for the reactions occurring in doing the test.

  • Sometimes a precipitate (ppt) initially forms with a limited amount of a reagent, it may then dissolve in excess of reagent to give a clear solution. Both observations will be crucial for a positive id.

  • There are no tests specific to identify a compound e.g.

    • (i) there is no test for calcium chloride, but there are tests for the calcium ion and the chloride ion, i.e. using specific ion tests.

    • (ii) Similarly, in organic tests, all you can do is identify a functional group i.e. a particular bit of the molecular structure of a member of a homologous series, rather a particular unique molecule.

    • Not all the reactions are good definitive tests, but they may well be important reactions of cations or anions you need to know about.

  • The first tests in the 'inorganic' section are typical of GCSE Science level, but finally these overlap and extend into those needed for GCE Advanced AS or A2 level. In the organic section, only the alkene test is in GCSE double award science, but some others might be found in a full single or coordinated triple award GCSE syllabus. 

  • If any GCSE/IGCSE/GCE/AS/A2/IB/US grade 8–12 K12 test seems missing, just let me know by email

  • These days more emphasis is given to modern spectroscopic methods of analysis such as NMR, Infrared, Mass spectrometry, Atomic Emission etc.  Quite correctly, though updating A level chemistry is intellectually challenging at times, it isn't always as much fun!

  • The methods described give no recipe details or risk assessment, just basically what is needed, what you see and what you can or cannot deduce. Consult teacher, 'practical' text books and Hazcards before attempting any analysis.

  • Most tests involve 'standard' chemical reactions and few tests are totally specific so observations should be viewed in context, i.e. is this a realistic deduction in that particular situation? 

  • Please remember each syllabus has its own 'list' of required tests – so do not 'over learn' – check out what is needed!

  • There is a web page covering the methods some safety aspects of "Preparing and collecting gases".

  • Use the alphabetical list to find the test you need.Advanced Chemistry Page Index and Links


HAZARD WARNING SYMBOLS (signs or labels)

A brief description of what the hazard might be.

hazard signsbiohazardBiohazard: Biohazardous materials include anything that may cause disease in  living organisms or cause significant impact to the environment or community.

NEW SECTION currently working on the table of examples below. 

WARNING For all experiments, appropriate risk assessments should be done and hazcards studied etc. This section just illustrates the use of hazard warning signs with common examples, and may NOT provide sufficient detail for specific experiments, concentrations, coursework write up etc., but Google can!
Symbol Examples of what might be labelled/classified with this hazard warning sign (definitions above)
hazard Irritant: Most acidic and alkaline solutions unless very dilute; acidic gases like chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide; bleaches
hazard Harmful: Some acids e.g. nitric acid; acidic gases like chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide; bleaches; heavy metal ions e.g. of lead, barium; some salts e.g. silver nitrate,
hazard Corrosive: All concentrated acidic and alkaline solutions;


Highly flammable: Most organic solvents, petrol and other hydrocarbon fuels, 
hazard Toxic: Chlorine, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide,
hazard Oxidising: Chlorine and oxygen gases, potassium manganate(VII), potassium chlorate (in some weed killers), 
hazard Radioactive: Radioisotopes, 
hazard Explosive: TNT, hydrogen, fireworks, 
hazard Biohazard: organisms and viruses infectious to humans, animals or plants (e.g. parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi); and biologically active agents (i.e. toxins, allergens, venoms)
  Carcinogenic: nitrates, organic aromatic compounds like phenols, Advanced Chemistry Page Index and Links

APPENDIX 1. A non-chemical test method for identifying elements - atomic emission line spectroscopy
An instrumental method for IDENTIFYING ELEMENTS from LINE SPECTRA

If the atoms of an element are heated to a very high temperature they emit light of a specific set of frequencies (or wavelengths). These are due to electronic changes in the atoms, the electrons are excited and then lose energy by emitting energy as photons of light. The high temperature promotes electrons to higher energy levels and the electrons re-emit the energy as photons of light as they go back to their normal stable level. These emitted frequencies can be recorded on a photographic plate, or these days, more likely onto a sensitive photocell (like in a digital camera) and displayed on a high resolution computer screen.

Each emission line spectra is unique for each element and so offers a different pattern of lines i.e. a 'spectral fingerprint' by which to identify any element in the periodic table .e.g. the diagram on the left shows some of the visible emission line spectra for the elements hydrogen, helium, neon, sodium and mercury.

Note the double yellow line for sodium, hence the dominance of yellow in its flame colour. In fact the simple flame test colour observations for certain metal ions relies entirely on the observed amalgamation of these spectral lines.

This is an example of an instrumental chemical analysis called spectroscopy and is performed using an instrument called an optical spectrometer (simple ones are called spectroscopes). It is a fast and reliable method of chemical analysis and this type of optical spectroscopy has enabled scientists to discover new elements in the past and today identify elements in distant stars and galaxies. The alkali metals caesium (cesium) and rubidium were discovered by observation of their line spectrum and helium identified from spectral observation of our Sun.


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