What is Salt Analysis?
Salt analysis (also known as systematic qualitative analysis or qualitative inorganic analysis) involves the identification of the cation and anion of an inorganic salt. This is done by conducting a series of tests in a systematic manner and using the observations to confirm the absence or presence of specific cations and anions. Salt analysis is an integral part of the CBSE class 12 chemistry practical examinations and is a topic that several students struggle with. Therefore, we at BYJU’S have channelled our efforts into explaining this topic in a manner that is easy to understand and remember. If questions like “How to do salt analysis?” and “How to remember salt analysis procedures easily?” are puzzling you, look no further! This article also touches on certain tricks and shortcuts that students can employ to quickly analyze their assigned salts in their chemistry practical examinations.
|Access in-depth procedures for the tests that must be performed during salt analysis by visiting the links listed below.|
In the examination, students will receive an inorganic salt whose chemical composition they must identify. This can be done by individually identifying the cation and the anion of the salt.
|Step-by-Step Process for Salt Analysis|
Step-by-Step Process for Salt Analysis
- Step 1: Obtain the inorganic salt whose cation and anion you must identify.
- Step 2: Conduct preliminary tests for the anion group-wise until you obtain a positive result. Anions and cations are classified into groups that share the same group reagent and therefore, have similar preliminary tests.
- Step 3: Once you get a positive result for a preliminary test for an anion, conduct a confirmatory test for that anion. (If you get a positive result, move on to step 4. If you don’t, go back to conducting preliminary tests for anions.)
- Step 4: Conduct preliminary tests for cations group-wise until you obtain a positive result.
- Step 5: Once a positive result is obtained, conduct a confirmatory test for that cation.
- Step 6: Now that the cation and the anion are identified, obtain the chemical formula of the salt by balancing the charges of the cation and anion. For example, if your cation is Fe3+ and your anion is Cl–, the chemical formula of the salt will be FeCl3.
Salt Analysis Answer Format (Sample)
A sample answer format for salt analysis is provided below.
|Aim: To identify the acidic radical and the basic radical of the given inorganic salt.
Apparatus Required: Fill as per requirement.
(i) Preliminary Test for Anion:
(ii) Confirmatory Test for Anion:
(iii) Preliminary Test for Cation:
(iv) Confirmatory Test for Cation:
Result: The acidic radical is (anion), and the basic radical is (cation). Therefore, the given salt is identified to be (salt).
Tricks and Shortcuts for Salt Analysis
Always check the colour of the salt first. Certain cations have coloured salts. If the salt is coloured, you can directly conduct a preliminary test for the cation that forms salts of that colour. The cations that form coloured salts are tabulated below:
|Colour of the Inorganic Salt||Cation|
|Deep blue||Co2+ (anhydrous salt)|
|Greenish-blue||Cu2+ (hydrated salt)|
|Green||Ni2+ (hydrated salt)|
|Yellow, brown, or yellowish-brown||Fe3+|
|Rose-red||Co2+ or mercuric iodide (HgI2)|
|Purple or dark green||Cr3+|
If the salt is colourless, perform a flame test first (since the presence of 3 different cations can be confirmed by it). An easier way to perform the flame test is to pick up a chunk of the salt with test tube holders, pour a few drops of concentrated HCl on it, and expose it to the flame of a Bunsen burner.
If you do not gain any insight into the cation from the flame test (or from visual inspection), proceed with group-wise preliminary tests for cations. Note that some cations do not form salts with certain anions, as listed below.
- Ba2+, Sr2+, Pb2+, and Ca2+ do not form salts with the sulphate anion (SO42-).
- Only group 0, group 1, and group 2 cations form salts with the phosphate anion (PO43-).
If you identify one of these cations in the salt analysis, you need not conduct tests for the corresponding anions.
Finally, certain salts are very common in salt analysis examinations. For example, the most common salt containing the bromide ion (Br–) is NH4Br and the most common salt containing the calcium cation (Ca2+) is CaCl2. Also, some salts can be identified by observing their texture and appearance (for example, calcium carbonate has the texture of powdered chalk). Therefore, visiting your chemistry laboratory and physically examining the salts may help you quickly analyze the salt in the practical examination.
List of Common Cations (Basic Radicals) for Salt Analysis
*Note: Multiple Ions belonging to the same group have the same preliminary test but different confirmatory tests.
|Group 3||Fe3+, Fe2+, Al3+|
|Group 4||Co2+, Mn2+, Ni2+, Zn2+|
|Group 5||Ba2+, Ca2+, Sr2+|
List of Common Anions (Acidic Radicals) for Salt Analysis
|Group 1||CO32-, NO2–, SO32-, S2-|
|Group 2||Cl–, Br–, I–, CH3COO–, NO3–, C2O42-|
|Group 3||PO43-, SO42-|
Preliminary Test for Anions
In salt analysis, preliminary tests for anions are conducted group-wise to find the anion of the salt. After getting a positive preliminary test for an anion, a confirmatory test must be conducted to confirm the presence of that anion in the salt.
Preliminary Test for Group 1 Anions
Experiment: Add a few drops of dilute H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) to a small quantity of the salt in a test tube (If nothing happens, move on to preliminary test for group 2 anions).
|Carbonate (CO32-)||Colourless and odourless gas that turns limewater milky|
|Sulphite (SO32-)||Colourless, pungent-smelling gas|
|Sulphide (S2-)||Colourless gas which smells like rotten eggs|
|Nitrite (NO2–)||Light brown gas having a pungent smell|
Preliminary Test for Group 2 Anions
Experiment: Take a small chunk of the salt in a test tube and add a few drops of concentrated H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) to it (If nothing happens, move on to preliminary test for group 2 anions).
|Chloride (Cl–)||White, pungent-smelling fumes that intensify when a glass rod dipped in ammonium hydroxide is brought to the mouth of the test tube|
|Bromide (Br–)||Reddish-brown fumes|
|Iodide (I–)||Violet fumes|
|Acetate (CH3COO–)||Pungent fumes that smell like vinegar|
|Nitrate (NO3–)||Brown fumes with a pungent smell|
|Oxalate (C2O4–)||Bubbly effervescence of a combination of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas|
Preliminary Test for Group 3 Anions
The sulphate and phosphate ions (group 3 anions) do not have any preliminary tests. If no positive preliminary tests are obtained for group 1 and group 2 anions, you can directly jump to confirmatory tests for the sulphate and phosphate anions.
Confirmatory Test for Anions
*Note: Water extract of the salt can be prepared by dissolving a pinch of the inorganic salt in a few drops of water.
|Anion||Confirmatory Test||Positive Observation|
|Carbonate (CO32-)||Add magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) to the water extract of the salt||Formation of a white precipitate.|
|Sulphite (SO32-)||Add aqueous barium chloride (BaCl2) to the water extract||Formation of a white precipitate which disappears when diluting hydrochloric acid (HCl) is added.|
|Sulphide (S2-)||(i) Add sodium nitroprusside to the water extract
(ii) Add aqueous lead acetate to the water extract
|(i) The solution turns purple or violet
(ii) Formation of a black precipitate
|Nitrite (NO2–)||Boil a mixture of the water extract and dilute H2SO4. Now add solid potassium iodide and starch solution to it||The solution develops a deep blue colour|
|Chloride (Cl–)||Add silver nitrate (AgNO3) to the water extract||Formation of a white precipitate which is soluble in ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH)|
|Bromide (Br–)||Add silver nitrate to the water extract||Formation of a yellow precipitate which is partially soluble in ammonium hydroxide|
|Iodide (I–)||Add silver nitrate to the water extract||Formation of a yellow precipitate which is insoluble in NH4OH|
|Nitrate (NO3–)||Mix the water extract with iron (II) sulphate solution (FeSO4) and add one drop of concentrated nitric acid (HNO3) along the side of the test tube.||Formation of a brown ring at the junction of the acid and the solution.|
|Acetate (CH3COO–)||Add concentrated H2SO4 and some ethanol to the salt.||Development of a fruity smell (due to the formation of an ester)|
|Oxalate (C2O4–)||Add acetic acid and calcium chloride to the water extract and boil the solution.||Formation of a white precipitate that dissolves upon the addition of dilute HNO3|
|Sulphate (SO42-)||Add aqueous barium chloride (BaCl2) to the water extract||Formation of a white precipitate which is insoluble in concentrated hydrochloric acid (HCl)|
|Phosphate (PO43-)||Add dilute nitric acid (HNO3) and ammonium molybdate ((NH4)2MoO4) to the water extract and boil the resulting solution.||Formation of a yellow, crystalline precipitate|
Shortcut: Ammonium bromide (NH4Br) is the most common salt containing the bromide ion in school laboratories. If you confirm the presence of bromide ions in the salt, you can immediately try a confirmatory test for the ammonium cation (NH4+)
Preliminary Test for Cations
In salt analysis. preliminary tests for cations must be conducted in order to check for the presence of different cations in the inorganic salt. This is done in a manner that is similar to the preliminary tests for anions. Note that some cation groups (such as group 0 and group 6 cations) do not have any preliminary tests. For these cations, confirmatory tests may be conducted directly.
Note: The original solution (OS) of the salt can be prepared by mixing a small amount of the inorganic salt with water and acid.
Preliminary Test for Group 1 Cations
Experiment: Add a few drops of dilute hydrochloric acid (HCl) to the original solution.
|Lead (Pb2+)||Formation of a white precipitate|
Preliminary Test for Group 2 Cations
Experiment: Add a few drops of dilute HCl and hydrogen sulphide (H2S) to the original solution.
|Copper (Cu2+)||A black precipitate is formed|
Preliminary Test for Group 3 Cations
- Ferrous salts (featuring Fe2+ ions) are green in colour and ferric salts (featuring Fe3+ ions) are brown in colour.
- For aluminium (Al3+ ion), a gelatinous white precipitate is obtained when the solid ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) and excess ammonium hydroxide are added to the original solution.
Preliminary Test for Group 4 Cations
Experiment: Add solid NH4Cl and excess NH4OH to the original solution. Now pass H2S gas through it.
|Cobalt (Co2+) and Nickel (Ni2+), conduct both confirmatory tests||Formation of a black precipitate|
|Manganese (Mn2+)||A skin-coloured precipitate is formed|
|Zinc (Zn2+)||A greyish-white precipitate is formed|
Preliminary Test for Group 5 Cations
Experiment: Add ammonium carbonate ((NH4)2CO3), ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), and ammonium hydroxide to the original solution. If you obtain a white precipitate, the cation might be a group 5 cation. Add dilute acetic acid (CH3COOH) to dissolve the white precipitate. Now do the following tests in the same order followed in the tabular column provided below.
|Barium (Ba2+)||A yellow precipitate is formed when K2CrO4 is added to the solution.|
|Strontium (Sr2+)||A white precipitate is formed when aqueous (NH4)2SO4 is added to the solution.|
|Calcium (Ca2+)||A white precipitate is formed when aqueous (NH4)2C2O4 (ammonium oxalate) and NH4OH are added to the solution.|
Confirmatory Tests for Cations
|Cation||Confirmatory Test||Positive Observation|
|Ammonium (NH4+)||Add sodium hydroxide to the original solution and treat it with Nessler’s reagent (K2HgI4)||Formation of a yellow or brown precipitate|
|Lead (Pb2+)||(i) Add potassium iodide (KI) to the original solution
(ii) Add potassium chromate (K2CrO4) to the original solution
|Formation of a yellow precipitate (for both the tests)|
|Copper (Cu2+)||In the preliminary test, a black precipitate is obtained from the addition of dilute HCl and H2S to the original solution. Isolate the black precipitate and add excess ammonium hydroxide to it||A blue coloured solution is formed|
|Iron (Fe3+)||Add concentrated nitric acid to the original solution and heat it. A brown precipitate will form. Add HCl and potassium ferrocyanide (K4[Fe(CN)6]) to it||A blue precipitate is formed|
|Aluminium (Al3+)||A gelatinous white precipitate is obtained when NH4Cl and excess NH4OH are added to the original solution. Isolate the precipitate and dissolve it in HCl. now add blue litmus and NH4OH to it drop-by-drop||A floating, blue layer is formed on the surface of the clear solution|
|Cobalt (Co2+)||Add solid NH4Cl and excess NH4OH to the original solution and pass H2S gas through it. Dissolve the resulting blue residue in water and add dilute CH3COOH and KNO2 to it. Now warm the mixture.||A yellow precipitate is obtained.|
|Nickel (Ni2+)||Add solid NH4Cl and excess NH4OH to the original solution and pass H2S gas through it. Dissolve the resulting yellow residue in water (you will now obtain a green-coloured solution). Add NaOH and bromine water to this mixture and boil it.||A black precipitate is formed|
|Manganese (Mn2+)||To the skin-coloured precipitate obtained in the preliminary test, add dilute HCl and boil off the H2S. Now add NaOH.||Formation of a white precipitate that turns brown or black when bromine water is added|
|Zinc (Zn2+)||Add NaOH (in excess) to the greyish-white precipitate obtained in the preliminary test.||The white precipitate is dissolved|
|Barium (Ba2+), Strontium (Sr2+), and Calcium (Ca2+)||Flame test: Make a paste of the salt by mixing it with a few drops of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Now skim off some of the paste with a glass rod and expose it to a Bunsen Burner’s flame.||Ba2+: Green-coloured flame
Sr2+: Crimson red flame
Ca2+: Brick red flame
|Magnesium (Mg2+)||Add NH4Cl, (NH4)3PO4 (ammonium phosphate) and excess NH4OH to the original solution.||A white precipitate is obtained.|
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