Make your own free website on Tripod.com








Science Connections
Chemical Reactions and Patterns of Reactivity













Home | Physical Science | General Chemistry | AP Chemistry | Lab Safety Form | Science Links | Your Teacher | Organizations | Science Club





Advanced Placement Chemistry

Lesson Plan #5

1 class period

Chemical Reactions and Patterns of Reactivity

Chemical Equations

    • Chemical reactions are represented in a concise way by chemical equations. For example, when hydrogen, H2, burns, it reacts with oxygen, O2, in the air to form water, H2O. We write the chemical equation for this reaction as follows: 2H2 + O2 2H2O
    • We read the + sign as "reacts with" and the arrow as "produces". The chemical formulas on the left of the arrow represent the starting substances, called reactants. The substances produced in the reaction, called products, are shown to the right of the arrow. The numbers in front of the formulas are coefficients.
    • In balancing equations, it is important to understand the difference between a coefficient in front of a formula and a subscript in a formula. Notice that changing a subscript in a formula - from H2O to H2O2, for example - changes the identity of the chemical. Subscripts should never be changed in balancing an equation. In contrast, placing a coefficient in front of a formula changes only the amount and not the identity of the substance.

Sample Exercise 3.1

Balance the following equation:

Na(s) + H2O(l) NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

Solution We begin by counting the atoms of each kind on both sides of the arrow. The Na and O atoms are balanced (one Na and One O on each side), but there are two H atoms on the left and three H atoms on the right. To increase the number of H atoms on the left, we replace a coefficient 2 in front of H2O:

Na(s) + 2H2O(l) NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

This choice is a trial beginning, but it set us on the correct path. Now that we have 2H2O, we must regain the balance in O atoms. We can do so by moving to the other side of the equation and putting a coefficient 2 in front of NaOH:

Na(s) + 2H2O(l) 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

This brings the H atoms into balance, but it requires that we move back to the left and put a coefficient 2 in front of Na to rebalance the Na atoms:

2Na(s) + 2H2O(l) 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

Finally, we check the number of atoms of each element and find that we have two Na atoms, four H atoms, and two O atoms on each side of the equation. The equation is balanced.

Practice Exercise

Balance the following equations by providing the missing coefficients:

  1. __C2H4 + __O2 __CO2 + __H2O
  2. __Al + __HCl __AlCl3 + __H2

answers: (a) 1,3,2,2; (b) 2,6,2,3

Patterns of Chemical Reactivity

Using the Periodic Table

We may identify reactants and products experimentally by their properties. However, we can often predict what will happen in a reaction if we have seen a similar reaction before. Naturally, recognizing a general pattern of reactivity for a class of substances gives you a broader understanding than merely memorizing a large number of unrelated reactions. The periodic table can be a powerful ally in this regard.

For example, knowing that sodium, Na, reacts with water, H2O, to form NaOH and H2, we can predict what happens when potassium, K, is placed in water. Both sodium and potassium are in the same group of the periodic table (the alkali metal group - group 1A). We expect them to behave similarly, producing the same kinds of products. Indeed, this prediction is correct:

2K(s) + 2H2O(l) 2KOH(aq) + H2(g)

In fact, all alkali metals react with water to form their hydroxide compounds and hydrogen. If we let M represent any alkali metal, we can write the general reaction as follows:

2M(s) + 2H2O(l) 2MOH(aq) + H2(g)

Alkali metal + water Metal hydroxide + hydrogen

Combustion in Air

Combustion reactions are rapid reactions that produce a flame. Most of the combustion reactions we observe involve O2 from air as a reactant.

When hydrocarbons are combusted, they react with O2 to form CO2 and H2O*.(*When there is an insufficient quantity of O2 present, carbon monoxide, CO, will be produced. Even more severe restriction of O2 will cause the production of fine particles of carbon that we call soot. Complete combustion produces CO2. Unless specifically stated to the contrary, we will take combustion to mean complete combustion.)

Combustion of compounds containing oxygen atoms as well as carbon and hydrogen atoms (for example, CH3OH and C6H12O6) also produce CO2 and H2O. The simple rule that hydrocarbons and related compounds form CO2 and H2O when they burn in air summarizes the behavior of about 3 million compounds.

Sample exercise 3.2

Write the balanced chemical equation for the reaction that occurs when methanol, CH3OH(l), is burned in air.

Solution We first recall that when any compound containing C, H, and O is combusted, it reacts with the O2(g) in air to produce CO2(g) and H2O(l). thus, the unbalanced equation is

CH3OH(l) + O2(g) CO2(g) + H2O(l)

Because CH3OH has only one C atom, we can start balancing the equation using the coefficient 1 for CO2. Because CH3OH has four H atoms, we place a coefficience 2 in front of H2O to balance the H atoms:

This gives four O atoms among the products and three among the reactants (one in CH3OH and two in O2). We can use the fractional coefficient 3/2 in front of O2 to provide four O atoms among the reactants (there are 3/2 X 2 = 3 O atoms in 3/2O2):

CH3OH(l) + 3/2O2(g) CO2(g) + 2H2O(l)

Although the equation is now balanced, it is not in its most conventional form because it contains a fractional coefficient. If we multiply each side of the equation by 2, we will remove the fraction and achieve the following balanced equation:

2CH3OH(l) + 3O2(g) 2CO2(g) + 4H2O(l)

Practice Exercise

Write the balanced chemical equation for the reaction that occurs when ethanol, C2H5OH(l), is burned in air.

Answer: C2H5OH(l) + 3O2(g) 2CO2(g) + 3H2O(l)

Combination and Decomposition Reactions

    • In combination reactions two or more substances react to form one product.
    • In a decomposition reaction one substance undergoes a reaction to produce two or more other substances.

Combination and Decomposition reactions

Combination Reactions

A + B C

C(s) + O2(g) CO2(g)

N2(g) + 3H2(g) 2NH3(g)

CaO(s) + H2O(l) Ca(OH)2(s)

Two reactants combine to form a single product. Many elements react with one another in this fashion to form compounds.

Decomposition Reactions

C A + B

2KClO3(s) 2KCl(s) + 3O2(g)

PbCO3(s) PbO(s) + CO2(g)

A single reactant breaks apart to form two or more substances. Many compounds behave in this fashion when heated.