This chemistry tutorial video shows five steps to balance chemical equations. It uses the examples of three combustion chemical reactions- the burning of hydrogen, the burning of carbon and the burning of methane in oxygen.
A challenge is also set to balance the equation for the combustion of propane, with clues given to help solve the challenge.
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Let's try a different chemical reaction. Methane gas also explodes in oxygen gas, and you can see if we put one CH4 molecule and one O2 molecule into a box, we end up with two H2O molecules, but one C atom is left on its own with unused bonds. Let's put another O2 molecule in at the beginning. Boom! Yes, that's better, we now have product molecules with no unused bonds left over. Could we work these numbers out in advance without having to do the explosion?
Methane is a compound that contains both hydrogen and carbon atoms. When the molecules bust apart, both the hydrogen and the carbon atoms get attached to oxygen atoms, to form new molecules. We know that when hydrogen bonds to oxygen, we get H2O, water. But what about when carbon attaches to oxygen? What is the molecules that we end up with then? If we bond one oxygen to one carbon, we can see that a double bond could form between carbon and oxygen atoms. But carbon still has 2 unused bonds, so we need another oxygen atom. We end up with the formula CO2, carbon dioxide. Whenever oxygen reacts with carbon, or compounds containing carbon, CO2 is the usual product. You can remember that.
Let's write then balance the equation. First we can write the names of the reactants, methane and oxygen. Then we can write the names of the products, water and carbon dioxide. Then convert the names into formulas. Some formulas you will already know, and others you might be able to work out using the bonding rules. Methane is CH4, oxygen gas is O2, water is H2O and carbon dioxide is CO2.
Carbon is already balanced, but hydrogen and oxygen are not. There are 4 H atoms on the LHS and only 2 on the RHS. What to do? We can double the number of H2O molecules