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NCSU – Dept. of Chemistry – Lecture Demonstrations

Le Chatelier’s Principle


Description: Le Chatelier’s principle is demonstrated by either invoking a color change of anhydrous (blue) CoCl 2 or hexahydrate (pink) CoCl 2 6H 2 O OR by observing the color change involved with the conversion of the chromate ion to the dichromate ion by addition of acid or base.


CoCl 2 (anhydrous to hexahydrate)

0.05 M CoCl 2

Evaporating dish or beaker

Conc. HCl

Glass stirring rod


M AgNO 3




Cr 2 O 7 2- to CrO 4 2-


M K 2 Cr 2 O 7

Petri dishes


M K 2 CrO 4

Glass stirring rod

1 M NaOH


1 M HCl



For large lecture halls, project demonstration using a document camera.

CoCl 2 (anhydrous to hexahydrate)

1. In an evaporating dish, add 50 mL of CoCl 2 solution (pink). To this, add HCl until the solution turns purple and then blue. The solution can be converted back to the pink hexahydrate species with the addition of water. At this point, the blue anhydrous species can again be regenerated by the addition of acetone. In each case, an equal volume of reagent will be required to shift the equilibrium.

2. In a separate evaporating dish, generate the blue anhydrous species with the addition of HCl as described in step 1. Slowly add 1 M AgNO 3 with stirring. AgCl will precipitate out and the solution will turn pink.

NCSU – Dept. of Chemistry – Lecture Demonstrations

Cr 2 O 7 2- to CrO 4 2-


Similar to the above demonstration, color changes are observed upon either addition of NaOH to K 2 Cr 2 O 7 (orange to yellow) or the addition of HCl to K 2 CrO 4 (yellow to orange).

the addition of HCl to K 2 CrO 4 (yellow to orange). Discussion: While the nature

Discussion: While the nature of the species in solution during the cobalt demonstration is not fully known, this experiment serves as an excellent demonstration of Le Chatelier’s principle. In dilute aqueous solutions the dominant cobalt species is Co(H 2 O) 6 2+ . Replacement of the water molecules with Cl 1- ions eventually produces a cobalt species with at least two chloride ions within the inner coordination sphere. It is believed that the transition from pink to blue occurs upon changing from the hydrated CoCl 1+ species to a hydrated CoCl 2 species. The shift from hexahydrate to anhydrous is favored by an increase in temperature (hence the use of concentrated HCl) as well as the presence of organic solvents (acetone, 2-propanol, 1-butanol). If a 1:1 mixture of water and 2-propanol is used, less HCl is required to observe a change in color. The addition of AgNO 3 to the anhydrous species results in the formation of the Co 2+ hexahydrate species. This is due to the abstraction of Cl 1- ions in CoCl 4 2- by Ag 1+ and the subsequent precipitation of AgCl. The chemical equation used to describe this equilibrium is commonly written as:


CoCl 4 2- (aq) + 6 H 2 O (l)

[Co(H 2 O) 6 ] 2+ (aq) + 4 Cl 1- (aq)




CrO 4 2-






dichromate ion (Cr 2 O 7 2- ) as described by the following chemical equation:

2 CrO 4 2- (aq) +

2 H 1+ (aq)

Cr 2 O 7 2- (aq) + H 2 O (l)

According to the above chemical equation, the equilibrium will shift to the right with addition of acid to generate the orange dichromate ion in solution. Likewise, addition of base to a dichromate solution will shift the equilibrium to the left, producing the yellow color indicative of a high chromate concentration in solution.

NCSU – Dept. of Chemistry – Lecture Demonstrations


Safety: Wear proper protective equipment including gloves and safety glasses when preparing and performing this demonstration. Concentrated solutions of acids and bases (>2 M) can irritate the skin and cause burns. When diluting concentrated acids, add acid to water to avoid spattering. Silver nitrate solutions are irritating to the skin and eyes and may cause staining of the skin or clothing. Both chromium and cobalt are toxic metals and should be handled with care.

Disposal: Individual samples can be neutralized slowly (i.e. add an acidic sample slowly to a basic sample) and disposed in an appropriate aqueous waste container.


Shakhashiri, B. Z. In Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry; The University of Wisconsin Press: 1983; Vol. 1, p 280-285; 250-270.

Summerlin, L. R.; Ealy, J. L. In Chemical Demonstrations: A Sourcebook for Teachers; American Chemical Society: 1985; Vol. 1, p 32-33; 56-59.

Grant, A. W. J. Chem. Educ. 1984, 61, 466.

Martins, L. J. A. ; Barbosa da Costa, J. J. Chem. Educ. 1986, 63, 989.

Video: (CoCl 2 ) (chromate)