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Chemistry Grade 10-12

Chemistry Grade 10-12

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Half reactions can be used to balance redox reactions. We are going to use some worked examples
to help explain the method.

342

CHAPTER 17. ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTIONS - GRADE 12

17.5

Worked Example 89: Balancing redox reactions

Question: Magnesium reduces copper (II) oxide to copper. In the process, magne-

sium is oxidised to magnesium ions. Write a balanced equation for this reaction.

Answer

Step 1 : Write down the unbalanced oxidation half reaction.

Mg →Mg2+

Step 2 : Balance the number of atoms on both sides of the equation.

You are allowed to add hydrogen ions (H+

) and water molecules if the reaction takes
place in an acid medium. If the reaction takes place in a basic medium, you can add

either hydroxide ions (OH−

) or water molecules. In this case, there is one magne-

sium atom on the left and one on the right, so no additional atoms need to be added.

Step 3 : Once the atoms are balanced, check that the charges balance.

Charges can be balanced by adding electrons to either side. The charge on the left
of the equation is 0, but the charge on the right is +2. Therefore, two electrons

must be added to the right hand side so that the charges balance. The half reaction

is now:

Mg→Mg2+

+ 2e−

Step 4 : Repeat the above steps, but this time using the reduction half

reaction.

The reduction half reaction is:

Cu2+

→Cu

The atoms balance but the charges don’t. Two electrons must be added to the right
hand side.

Cu2+

+ 2e−

→Cu

Step 5 : Multiply each half reaction by a suitable number so that the number
of electrons released in the oxidation half reaction is made equal to the

number of electrons that are accepted in the reduction half reaction.

No multiplication is needed because there are two electrons on either side.

Step 6 : Combine the two half reactions to get a final equation for the overall

reaction.

Mg +Cu2+

+ 2e−

→Mg2+

+Cu+ 2e−

(The electrons on either side cancel

and you get...)

Mg +Cu2+

→Mg2+

+Cu

Step 7 : Do a final check to make sure that the equation is balanced

In this case, it is.

343

17.5

CHAPTER 17. ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTIONS - GRADE 12

Worked Example 90: Balancing redox reactions

Question: Chlorine gas oxidises Fe(II) ions to Fe(III) ions. In the process, chlorine

is reduced to chloride ions. Write a balanced equation for this reaction.

Answer

Step 1 : Write down the oxidation half reaction.

Fe2+

→Fe3+

Step 2 : Balance the number of atoms on both sides of the equation.

There is one iron atom on the left and one on the right, so no additional atoms need
to be added.

Step 3 : Once the atoms are balanced, check that the charges balance.

The charge on the left of the equation is +2, but the charge on the right is +3.

Therefore, one electron must be added to the right hand side so that the charges
balance. The half reaction is now:

Fe2+

→Fe3+

+e−

Step 4 : Repeat the above steps, but this time using the reduction half
reaction.

The reduction half reaction is:

Cl2 →Cl−

The atoms don’t balance, so we need to multiply the right hand side by two to fix

this. Two electrons must be added to the left hand side to balance the charges.

Cl2 + 2e−

→2Cl−

Step 5 : Multiply each half reaction by a suitable number so that the number

of electrons released in the oxidation half reaction is made equal to the
number of electrons that are accepted in the reduction half reaction.

We need to multiply the oxidation half reaction by two so that the number of electrons

on either side are balanced. This gives:

2Fe2+

→2Fe3+

+ 2e−

Step 6 : Combine the two half reactions to get a final equation for the overall
reaction.

2Fe2+

+Cl2 →2Fe3+

+ 2Cl−

Step 7 : Do a final check to make sure that the equation is balanced

The equation is balanced.

Worked Example 91: Balancing redox reactions in an acid medium

Question: The following reaction takes place in an acid medium:

Cr2O2−

7 +H2S →Cr3+

+S

344

CHAPTER 17. ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTIONS - GRADE 12

17.5

Write a balanced equation for this reaction.

Answer
Step 1 : Write down the oxidation half reaction.

Cr2O2−

7 →Cr3+

Step 2 : Balance the number of atoms on both sides of the equation.

We need to multiply the right side by two so that the number of Cr atoms will
balance. To balance the oxygen atoms, we will need to add water molecules to the

right hand side.

Cr2O2−

7 →2Cr3+

+ 7H2O

Now the oxygen atoms balance but the hydrogens don’t. Because the reaction takes
place in an acid medium, we can add hydrogen ions to the left side.

Cr2O2−

7 + 14H+

→2Cr3+

+ 7H2O

Step 3 : Once the atoms are balanced, check that the charges balance.

The charge on the left of the equation is (-2+14) = +12, but the charge on the

right is +6. Therefore, six electrons must be added to the left hand side so that the

charges balance. The half reaction is now:

Cr2O2−

7 + 14H+

+ 6e−

→2Cr3+

+ 7H2O

Step 4 : Repeat the above steps, but this time using the reduction half

reaction.

The reduction half reaction after the charges have been balanced is:

S2−

→S + 2e−

Step 5 : Multiply each half reaction by a suitable number so that the number

of electrons released in the oxidation half reaction is made equal to the
number of electrons that are accepted in the reduction half reaction.

We need to multiply the reduction half reaction by three so that the number of

electrons on either side are balanced. This gives:

3S2−

→3S + 6e−

Step 6 : Combine the two half reactions to get a final equation for the overall

reaction.

Cr2O2−

7 + 14H+

+ 3S2−

→3S + 2Cr3+

+ 7H2O

Step 7 : Do a final check to make sure that the equation is balanced

Worked Example 92: Balancing redox reactions in an alkaline medium

Question: If ammonia solution is added to a solution that contains cobalt(II) ions, a

complex ion is formed, called the hexaaminecobalt(II) ion (Co(NH3)2+

6 ). In a chem-
ical reaction with hydrogen peroxide solution, hexaaminecobalt ions are oxidised by

hydrogen peroxide solution to the hexaaminecobalt(III) ion Co(NH3)3+

6 . Write a

balanced equation for this reaction.

Answer
Step 1 : Write down the oxidation half reaction

345

17.5

CHAPTER 17. ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTIONS - GRADE 12

Co(NH3)2+

6 →Co(NH3)3+
6

Step 2 : Balance the number of atoms on both sides of the equation.

The number of atoms are the same on both sides.

Step 3 : Once the atoms are balanced, check that the charges balance.

The charge on the left of the equation is +2, but the charge on the right is +3.
One elctron must be added to the right hand side to balance the charges in the

equation.The half reaction is now:

Co(NH3)2+

6 →Co(NH3)3+

6 +e−

Step 4 : Repeat the above steps, but this time using the reduction half

reaction.

Although you don’t actually know what product is formed when hydrogen peroxide

is reduced, the most logical product is OH−

. The reduction half reaction is:

H2O2 →OH−

After the atoms and charges have been balanced, the final equation for the reduction

half reaction is:

H2O2 + 2e−

→2OH−

Step 5 : Multiply each half reaction by a suitable number so that the number
of electrons released in the oxidation half reaction is made equal to the

number of electrons that are accepted in the reduction half reaction.

We need to multiply the oxidation half reaction by two so that the number of electrons
on both sides are balanced. This gives:

2Co(NH3)2+

6 →2Co(NH3)3+

6 + 2e−

Step 6 : Combine the two half reactions to get a final equation for the overall

reaction.

2Co(NH3)2+

6 +H2O2 →2Co(NH3)3+

6 + 2OH−

Step 7 : Do a final check to make sure that the equation is balanced

Exercise: Balancing redox reactions

1. Balance the following equations.

(a) HNO3 +PbS →PbSO4 +NO +H2O

(b) NaI +Fe2(SO4)3 →I2 +FeSO4 +Na2SO4

2. Manganate(VII) ions (MnO−

4 ) oxidise hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to oxygen
gas. The reaction is done in an acid medium. During the reaction, the man-

ganate(VII) ions are reduced to manganese(II) ions (Mn2+

). Write a balanced

equation for the reaction.

3. Chlorine gas is prepared in the laboratory by adding concentrated hydrochloric

acid to manganese dioxide powder. The mixture is carefully heated.

(a) Write down a balanced equation for the reaction which takes place.

(b) Using standard electrode potentials, show by calculations why this mixture

needs to be heated.

(c) Besides chlorine gas which is formed during the reaction, hydrogen chloride

gas is given off when the conentrated hydrochloric acid is heated. Explain
why the hydrogen chloride gas is removed from the gas mixture when the

gas is bubbled through water.
(IEB Paper 2, 2004)

346

CHAPTER 17. ELECTROCHEMICAL REACTIONS - GRADE 12

17.6

4. The following equation can be deduced from the table of standard electrode
potentials:

2Cr2O2−

7 (aq) + 16H+

(aq)→4Cr3+

(aq) + 3O2(g) + 8H2O(l) (E0

=

+0.10V)

This equation implies that an acidified solution of aqueous potassium dichro-

mate (orange) should react to form Cr3+

(green). Yet aqueous laboratory
solutions of potassium dichromate remain orange for years. Which ONE of the

following best explains this?

(a) Laboratory solutions of aqueous potassium dichromate are not acidified

(b) The E0

value for this reaction is only +0.10V

(c) The activation energy is too low

(d) The reaction is non-spontaneous

(IEB Paper 2, 2002)

5. Sulfur dioxide gas can be prepared in the laboratory by heating a mixture of

copper turnings and concentrated sulfuric acid in a suitable flask.

(a) Derive a balanced ionic equation for this reaction using the half-reactions

that take place.

(b) Give the E0

value for the overall reaction.

(c) Explain why it is necessary to heat the reaction mixture.

(d) The sulfur dioxide gas is now bubbled through an aqueous solution of

potassium dichromate. Describe and explain what changes occur during

this process.

(IEB Paper 2, 2002)

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