Chemical equation and balancing chemical equations

In this post, we will discuss chemical reactions, chemical equations & the balancing of chemical equations.


Chemical Relation & chemical equation – definition & explanation

A chemical reaction expresses a chemical change.

For example, one chemical property of hydrogen is that it will react with oxygen to make water.

We can write that as follows: hydrogen reacts with oxygen to make water.

Again, we can represent this chemical change more succinctly as
hydrogen + oxygen → water
where the + sign means that the two substances interact chemically with each other and the → symbol implies that a chemical reaction takes place.

But substances can also be represented by chemical formulas. Remembering that hydrogen and oxygen both exist as diatomic molecules, we can rewrite our chemical change as:
H2 + O2 → H2O

This is an example of a chemical equation, which is a concise way of representing a chemical reaction. The initial substances are called reactants, and the final substances are called products.

Why is balancing of chemical equation needed

Hydrogen reacts with oxygen to make water and this can be represented with a chemical reaction in the following way: H2 + O2 → H2O

This is certainly an example of a chemical equation. Unfortunately, it is also an incomplete chemical equation.

The law of conservation of matter says that matter cannot be created or destroyed. In chemical equations, the number of atoms of each element in the reactants must be the same as the number of atoms of each element in the products.

If we analyze the above equation and count the number of hydrogen atoms in the reactants and products, we find two hydrogen atoms. But if we count the number of oxygen atoms in the reactants and products, we find that there are two oxygen atoms in the reactants but only one oxygen atom in the products.

How to balance a chemical equation?

How to balance a chemical equation? We can’t change the subscripts in the formula for reactants and products as we cannot change the formulas of individual substances because the chemical formula for a given substance is characteristic of that substance. What you can do, however, is to change the number of molecules that react or are produced. We do this one element at a time, going from one side of the reaction to the other, changing the number of molecules of a substance until all elements have the same number of atoms on each side.

When the reactants and products of a chemical equation have the same number of atoms of all elements present, we say that an equation is balanced.

Balancing equation – an example

Hydrogen reacts with oxygen to make water and this can be represented with a chemical reaction in the following way: H2 + O2 → H2O

Let’s balance this equation.

To accommodate the two oxygen atoms as reactants, let us assume that we have two water molecules as products:
H2 + O2 → 2H2O

The 2 in front of the formula for water is called a coefficient. Now there is the same number of oxygen atoms in the reactants as there are in the product.

But in satisfying the need for the same number of oxygen atoms on both sides of the reaction, we have also changed the number of hydrogen atoms on the product side, so the number of hydrogen atoms is no longer equal.

No problem – simply go back to the reactant side of the equation and add a coefficient in front of the H2. The coefficient that works is 2: 2H2 + O2 → 2H2O

There are now four hydrogen atoms in the reactants and also four atoms of hydrogen in the product. There are two oxygen atoms in the reactants and two atoms of oxygen in the product. The law of conservation of matter has been satisfied.

Balancing of equations – important points

When the reactants and products of a chemical equation have the same number of atoms of all elements present, we say that an equation is balanced.

All proper chemical equations are balanced. If a substance does not have a coefficient written in front of it, it is assumed to be 1. Also, the convention is to use all whole numbers when balancing chemical equations.

Chemical equation and balancing chemical equations
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