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The effect of changing surface area on the rate at which HCl

decolorizes each agar block

Research Question: What is the effect of different sized colored
agar cubes and their surface are: volume ratio on the rate of
reaction at which they absorb HCl?
There should be a direct correlation between the size of an agar
cube, which represents a cell, and the rate at which they can
exchange substances. This correlation should be: the bigger the size
of the agar cube, the longer the period of time taken for the
substance exchange to occur.
Aim- the aim of this experiment is investigating how different
surface areas affect the rate at which HCl completely decolorizes
different sized agar blocks. The agar is colored with
phenolphthalein indicator. The different sized agar blocks will be
obtained by starting out with a 20mmX10mmX10mm agar block and
cutting it up into half, then repeating the process until five different
sized agar blocks are obtained. Each of the five agar blocks is then
inserted into a test tube containing HCl at the same time as each
other. The time taken for each block to turn colorless will then be
measured with digital stopwatches in order to establish a relation
between surface area and the rate of the reaction. The center of
each agar block has to become completely colorless in order to be
considered completely decolorized.
Hypothesis- the smaller the Surface Area:Volume ratio, the slower
the rate of reaction, therefore the longer the time taken for the cube
of agar to be penetrated by the acid and for the phenolphthalein
indicator to turn colorless. As the size of a cell increases, its volume
and surface area increase with it, however they increase at a rate
that limits the ratio between them, making it gradually smaller. This
is because when the cell is smaller, it has a smaller volume but a
greater surface area, therefore it can exchange more and at a faster
rate. This would therefore mean that the smallest sized agar cube
would be the one to get its phenolphthalein decolorized by the HCl
the fastest.
The following quotation supports the principles mentioned: The
important point is that the surface area to the volume ratio gets
smaller as the cell gets larger. Thus, if the cell grows beyond a
certain limit, not enough material will be able to cross the
membrane fast enough to accommodate the increased cellular
volume. Blamire, J. (2001).

Collected and Interpreted Data

Raw (Unprocessed) Data: to show the correlation between cell size,
Surface Area: Volume ratio and the rate at which substance exchange
takes place

The dependent variable in this set of data is the time.

Processed Data (including calculations): to show the
principles behind geometrical values and proportions

The independent variable in this set of data is the Surface Area:

Volume ratio, which is determined by the size of the agar cube,
representing a cell.
Data interpretation: Qualitative data to show the correlation
between the results

Time taken for agar cubes to get decolorized by HCl (s)

This graph shows that as the cube decreases in size, so does the
amount of time taken by the Hydrochloric acid to decolorize the
phenolphthalein indicator. There is positive correlation between the
time measurements and the size measurements. The shape of the
graph is downwards, to the right, which means that a decrease is
occurring. The line of best fit is passing through approximately 3
results, which is the majority of the overall quantity.

Time taken for decoloration (s) (average)

Conclusion and Discussion:

From the data collected, it can be observed as the surface area and
volume values decrease, so does the amount of time taken for the
cube to be penetrated to its core by the HCl and get its
phenolphthalein indicator completely decolorized. The cube that has
the smallest surface area and volume can be labeled as the smallest
cube the other trials: cube labeled as number 5, with a surface area
of 100 mm^2 and a volume of 62.5 mm^3. According to the
hypothesis, the bigger the size of a cube, the smaller its surface
area: volume ratio. This statement is proven by the results of the
largest cube of agar: volume of 100 mm^3 and surface area of 600
mm^2, where the surface area: volume ration is the smallest out of

all of the results: 0.6: 1. However, cube five had an opposite relation
between its values, resulting in a bigger ratio: 1.6: 1. As a result of
this bigger value in the ratio, it was recorded that the duration of
the time taken for the acid to immerse the agar cube was the
smallest, at only 14s, proving to be the shortest period of time out
of the different trials. This supports the diffusion theory, which
states that the larger the surface area, the faster the rate of a
reaction. The final time values were increasingly larger as the ratio
between surface area and volume decreased, this is because
volume increases at a faster rate than surface area in a cell, so the
cell ends up being too big in size and not exchanging sufficient
substances for its significant size.
Considering the direct relation between rate of metabolism and the
amount of reactions performed in the cytoplasm, volume is deemed
important when it comes to fuelling the cell and performing life
processes. However, in order for metabolism to occur, substance
exchange must occur across a permeable membrane, which is when
surface area plays a very important part. Therefore, a cell cannot
function without having a considerable volume and a considerable
surface area, since they both provide space for life processes to
occur. Consequentially, the ratio between them is very important as
it establishes the way in which the cell will function.
This claim is verified by a trustworthy, scholarly source: The
surface area to volume ration of a cell is therefore very important. If
the ratio is too small then substances will not enter the cell as
quickly as they are required and waste products will accumulate
because they are produced more rapidly than they can be
excreted. Allott, A., & Mindorff, D. (2014).
Source of
The depth of
the colored
agar poured
in the petri
dish was
smaller than
10mm tall.

of the
acid possibly

Evaluation of Procedure


The students received a set

of provisions at the start of
the experiment and they
were instructed to use them
to the best of their abilities
in order to establish a
relation between the size of
5 individual agar cubes and
the time taken by them to
turn colorless in an HCl
Every group out of the five
who performed the
experiment received
significantly different results
for each of the agar cubes

In order to be able to
obtain better results,
the agar would have
to be prepared by
the students
themselves, it would
have to be carefully
poured until reaching
the desired height
A fresh sample of
Hydrochloric acid
could be used, and
shared by all the
participants of the

changed over

The use of
one test tube
alone, as
opposed to
one per agar

cutting of
agar cubes.

when the
change from
pink to
colorless was

after using two different

samples of Hydrochloric acid
to decolorize them. Two
different samples were used,
out of which a test tube was
filled by using a pipette.
One of the latter steps of the
experiment was to start the
time watch as agar cubes
were inserted into the test
tube containing the
Hydrochloric acid. Inserting
each individual cube would
take time on its own, so this
would affect the timings on
the stopwatch, as some of
the cubes will have been
inserted after the start of
the stopwatch. Individual
agar cubes would get a
higher exposure to the
Hydrochloric acid than other
agar cubes, therefore
impacting the time results
and the rate of reaction.
During the cutting of the
agar procedure, the agar
was segmented into cuboid
shapes that would represent
cells. The representations of
cells would have to be of
certain measurements in
order to prove variation.
These different
measurements were
achieved by measuring a
portion of the agar with a
ruler and making incisions
with a scalpel, by free hand,
which resulted in uneven
edges and measurements
that sometimes went off.
The color of the
phenolphthalein got very
weak after a certain period
of time, up to the point
where it was difficult to
discern whether there was
any color left. At many

class, so that the

concentration is
known and it cannot
affect the results
An improvement
would be to do the
timing and inserting
into an individual
tube for each agar
cube: the cube would
be inserted and the
stopwatch started,
no other distraction
would be ongoing.
Since there were 5
agar cubes, 5 test
tubes should be
provided at the start
of the experiment.

An improvement
would be to use more
professional utensils,
such as a more
accurate ruler, a
specific cutter that
would ensure that
the edges being cut
would come out
straight and the size
would meet the

An improvement
would be to intensify
the color of the agar
so that even after
most of the color is
gone, the cores of
the cubes are still

made by
naked eye.

moments throughout the

experiment, the color of the
pink in the agar cubes got so
dim that my partner and I
were unsure of the nature of
the cube at that given
period of time. This may
have affected the results
due to lack of accurate
visibility and certainty of
correctness that the seen is

visible to the naked

eye, without strain.
This would improve
the accuracy of the
results, as there
would be a higher
certainty of knowing
the exact timing
when the shift from
pink to colorless was

Blamire, J. (2001). BIOdotEDU. Retrieved September 7, 2015, from
Allott, A., & Mindorff, D. (2014). 1.1 Introduction to cells. In Biology:
course companion (2014 ed., p.9). Oxford.