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Sodium benzoate is an edible chemical compound used as a preservative in food to inhibit spoilage due to bacteria, molds, and yeasts. It also acts as a flavor enhancer. Sodium benzoate has low acute and chronic toxicities in humans. It is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA and is used in a wide variety of foods such as sodas, candies, fruit juice concentrates, dressings, marmalades, jams, sausages, pickles, and many other beverages and processed foods.

Benzoic acid can be produced industrially by oxidizing naphthalene with vanadium pentoxide to yield phthalic anhydride, which is decarboxylated with a mineral acid to give benzoic acid. Benzoic acid is further refined by dissolving it in sodium hydroxide solution to produce sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate is a white, crystalline odorless solid that is highly soluble in water and alcohols, but only sparingly soluble in other organic solvents such as acetone and methyl ethyl ketone.

Obtain 0.100 g of impure benzoic acid and divide it equally into five different test tubes. Label one 10-mL graduated cylinder for each of the different solvents you will use in this experiment, and add the appropriate solvent to the test tube. Place the test tubes into a boiling water bath and stir the samples periodically to observe which solvents dissolve the benzoic acid and which ones do not. You should record observations on your data table. When the benzoic acid has melted, use the temperature probe to measure the melting point.

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