Combustion reactions are among the key classes of reactions in the world of chemistry. These reactions are generally known as ‘burning’. Combustion generally takes place when the hydrocarbons react with the surrounding oxygen and ends up producing carbon dioxide along with water. To be put in a simpler way, all combustions involve reactions between the combustible materials and the oxidizer such that oxidized products are formed in the process. Combustion reactions are always exothermic in nature and releases heat, although at times these reactions proceed at such a slow pace that the resulting change in temperature cannot be noticeable at all. The right signs of working with combustion reactions can include oxygen as a reactant, forming of water and carbon dioxide as products generation of and heat. However, some type of reactions like inorganic combustions may not form all products discussed above yet can still be recognized through the reaction of oxygen.
It is not a given that combustion will certainly result in fire, however when fire occurs, it is characterized by a flame that serves as the reaction indicator. In order to initiate the combustion an activation energy is required which can be in the form of using a lit match for lighting the fire and the heat thus generated from the flame can provide sufficient energy for helping the reaction process sustain itself.
An example of a combustion reaction can be the following:
C2H6 + O2 à CO2 + H2O
In the above combustion, ethane reacts with oxygen to give out the oxidized product carbon dioxide along with water. Here, except for water both the reactants and products are gases. Ethane has two carbon and 6 hydrogen atoms in each of their molecules and when it reacts with oxygen to give carbon dioxide and water which are CO2 + H2O, it is clear that the reaction is not balanced since at the left hand side there are 2 carbons while at the right hand side there are 1 carbon. On the left side there are 6 hydrogens and at the right there are 2 hydrogen. In the left there are 2 oxygens and at the right there is 3 oxygens. This makes it clear that none of the elements in the reaction are balanced. To balance this equation, it is best practise to save the element which is a molecule by its own for the very end as simple numbers can be added before it without affecting other elements. So, the compounds that have other elements associated should be changed first. Thus, the balanced reaction obtained is:
2 C2H2 + 7O2 à 4CO2 + H2O
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