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6.5 Balancing Chemical Equations Text

6.5 Balancing Chemical Equations Text

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05/10/2014

 
How do scientists in different countries,speaking different languages,communicate the results oftheir experiments to each other (
Figure 1
)?How do they represent information about elements,compounds,andchemical equations? You have learned that chemical substances can berepresented with names andformulas.You have alsolearned that chemicalreactions can be representedby word equations.Can wedescribe chemical reactionsin symbolic form?A
skeleton equation
is arepresentation ofa chemicalreaction in which theformulas ofthe reactants areconnected to the formulas of the products by an arrow.Consider the example oftheburning ofmethane.We candescribe this reaction in aword equation as follows:
methane + oxygen
carbon dioxide + water
We can then write a skeleton equation by replacing each name with aformula:
CH
4
+ O
2
CO
2
+ H
2
O
However,there is a problem.The Law ofConservation ofMassstates that the mass ofthe reactants equals the mass oftheproducts.In other words,atoms can be neither created nordestroyed in a chemical change.Ifwe look at the reactants andproducts,we can record the numbers ofatoms ofeach type in atable like
Table 1
.There is an apparent imbalancebetween the numbers ofatomsin the reactants and thenumbers ofatoms in theproducts.We have seemingly created an oxygen atom anddestroyed two hydrogen atoms(
Figure 2
).We cannot change thetypes or formulas ofthemolecules.So how can wesolve this imbalance?
226
Chapter 6 
6.56.5
Balancing Chemical Equations
Figure 1
A chemical equation is written the same way in any language, making it universally understandable.
Type of atomReactantsProducts
C11H42O22 + 1 = 3
Figure 2
The numbers of atoms of reactants and products are out of balance. The total masses of reactants andproducts are also out of balance. The see-saw tilts to the product side because of the greater mass.
La réaction du méthane,brulant avec l’oxygène,produit de l’eau etdu gaz de dioxyde de carbone.
CH
4
+ 2O
2
> 2H
2
O + CO
2
Methane burns in air by reacting with oxygen to produce waterand carbon dioxide gases.
CH
4
+ 2O
2
> 2H
2
O + CO
2
CH
4
+ 2O
2
> 2H
2
O + CO
2
Table 1
Combustion of Methane
 
Understanding Chemical Reactions 
227
The answer is to changethe numbers ofmoleculesrather than theirformulas.Ifwe add anoxygen molecule to thereactants and a watermolecule to the products,this balances the equation(
Figure 3
).
CH
4
+ O
2
+O
2
CO
2
+ H
2
O +H
2
O
An equation in which the reactants and the products contain equalnumbers ofatoms ofeach type is a
balanced chemical equation
.Theusual way to write a balanced equation is to use coefficients.A
coefficient
is a number written in front ofa chemical symbol or formula.It indicatesthe number ofatoms or molecules ofthat substance.The coefficients areshown in red in the following equation.
CH
4
+2O
2
CO
2
+2H
2
O
Note that by balancing an equation,the mass ofthe reactants will be equalto the mass ofthe products.
How to Balance an Equation
Let’s look at an example to see how an equation can be balanced.Ironreacts with oxygen to form magnetic iron oxide (Fe
3
O
4
)
(Figure 4).
Whatis the balanced chemical equation for this reaction?
Step 1.Write the word equation for the reaction.
iron + oxygen
magnetic iron oxide
When iron reacts with oxygen, itforms two oxides. Magnetic ironoxide is an equal mixture ofiron(II) oxide (FeO) and iron(III)oxide (Fe
2
O
3
). Add up the atoms to get the formula Fe
3
O
4
.
Did You Know?
Figure 4
Iron reacts with oxygen to form rust or magnetic iron oxide.
Figure 3
The numbers of atoms are now in balance. The mass of the reactants also equals the mass of the products.
 
228
Chapter 6 
Step 2.Write the skeleton equation by replacing each name with a correct  formula.
Fe + O
2
Fe
3
O
4
Step 3.Count the numbers ofatoms ofeach type in reactants and products.
The numbers ofatoms may be recorded in a table
(Table 2)
.
Step 4.Multiply each ofthe formulas by the appropriate coefficients tobalance the numbers ofatoms.
To balance the three iron atoms on the right side,multiply the iron atomson the left side by 3.To balance the four oxygen atoms on the right side,multiply the oxygen atoms on the left side by 2.Check that the atoms oneach side are balanced.
3Fe +2O
2
Fe
3
O
4
A balanced chemical equation has been written.The formulas areunchanged,and the numbers ofatoms are balanced.The same steps are used to balance equations that involve morecomplex molecules.For example,what is the balanced chemical equationfor the reaction ofmagnesium metal with nitric acid?
Step 1.Write the word equation for the reaction.
magnesium + nitric acid
hydrogen + magnesium nitrate
Step 2.Write the skeleton equation by replacing each name with a correct  formula.
Mg + HNO
3(aq)
H
2
+ Mg(NO
3
)
2
Equation Balancing for “Smarties”
Try This
 Activity 
Use candies to represent the process ofbalancingequations.For example,consider the balancedchemical equation for the combustion ofmethanein oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water:
CH
4
+ 2O
2
CO
2
+ 2H
2
O
Start with one black (or brown) candy,four yellow candies,and four red candies.Arrangethe candies to represent the reactants.Forexample,methane could be a black candy with four yellow candies just touching it,andthe two oxygen molecules could each be twored candies just touching.
You can represent the chemical reaction by mixing all the candies together.
The products could then be represented witha carbon dioxide molecule (one black candy with two red candies) and two watermolecules (each molecule is one red candy with two yellow candies).
Use the candies to represent other chemicalreactions that you have encountered in thischapter.For a challenge,try to represent theburning ofethane (C
2
H
6
) in oxygen gas toproduce carbon dioxide and water.
Type of atomReactantsProducts
Fe13O24
Table 2
Rusting of Iron
The following subscriptsare used to indicate thestate ofeach substance:(s) indicates a solid;(l) indicates a liquid;(g) indicates a gas;and (aq) indicates anaqueous solution(in water).

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