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We did the lab for Halloween where you add 18M sulfuric acid to sugar(sucrose) and get carbon left in the test tube. My question is does the acid act as a catalyst for the breakup or do the H+ ions hydrate the -OH groups on the sucrose? I know the waste product still has to be neutralized which is why I think it is acting as a catalyst.
Question Date: 2004-11-08
Answer 1:

No, it does not act like a catalyst. Sulfuric Acid acts as a dehydrating agent, removing the water from the sucrose according to this reaction:

Excess H2S04

C12H22011---------------------> 12C + 11H20

The hydration of the Sulfuric acid creates heat (exothermic reaction). This is the driving force of the reaction. Sulfuric acid is hydrated. Like you said, the acid is reacting with the OH groups of the sucrose.The waste product still has to be neutralized because it is still an acid, although less strong now because it is diluted.

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