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Balancing chemical equations: it’s definition, symbols and coefficients

Chemical equations are symbolic representations of what is known as a chemical reaction. Balancing chemical equations involves changing the scalar number of each chemical formula. Therefore, same charge must be present on both sides of the balanced equation. On the left hand side of the equation are the “reactants” while on the right side are the “products”. Both the reactants and the products must at the end of any balanced equation have an “absolute value” of the stoichiometric numbers.

It is important not to forget that smallest whole number coefficients are used at balancing chemical equations but if a chemical formula doesn’t have a coefficient, it is assumed that the coefficient is 1.

In balancing chemical equations, there are certain fundamental laws for the purpose of this lab report format which helps in making the balancing of equation much easier. These laws include:

  • The law of conservation of mass: Lavoisier was a great researcher in the 18th century and the first to carry out a quantitative and accurate chemical measurements. Among his demonstrations are the important roles oxygen take part in when metals rust. He also stated and proved that there cannot be any combustion without oxygen. In conclusion, he stated that ‘In every chemical transformation, the same amount of matter exists before and after the reaction’.
  • Law of definite proportions states that ‘In any given chemical compound, the amount in mass of the elements that make up the chemical compound are fixed, independent of the origin of the compound or its mode of preparation’. This law was postulated by Joseph Proust. In his law, elements are substances that cannot be further broken down into any fundamental components while mixtures or compounds can be broken down into other fundamental components.
  • Law of multiple proportions: Dalton, another great researcher whose area of specialization was gaseous mixtures stated his own law as ‘When two elements from a series of compounds, the masses of one that combine with a fixed mass of the other in the ratio of integers to each other’.
  • The law of combining volumes: Joseph G. Lussac in the early 19th century stated that ‘When two gases are allowed to react, such that the gas are at the same temperature and pressure, the volumes of the individual gas consumed will be in the ratio of small integers. However, the ratio of the volume of each product gas to the volume of either reacting gas will be a ratio of simple integers’.
  • Avogadro’s hypothesis: in the year 1811, Avogadro stated that ‘Equal volumes of all gases with the same temperature and pressure have same numbers of particles’.

There are several symbols used in Balancing chemical equations. These symbols are used when denoting how to write a coursework on the reaction type in different chemical reaction. They are

  • “ ” this symbol is used to denote a stoichiometric relation
  • “ ” used to denote a net forward reaction
  • “ ” used to denote a reaction in both directions
  • “ ” used to denote an equilibrium

Other symbols used include

  • (s ) which denotes solid state of a chemical compound
  • (l ) denotes liquid state of a chemical compound
  • (g ) it denotes gaseous state of a chemical compound
  • (aq ) it indicates aqueous solution

How to go about balancing chemical equations?

Different approaches to solving or balancing chemical equations have long business paper being postulated and till date, those ways still work.

Methods used for balancing chemical equations are

    • Balancing by inspection: This method is one of the easiest and mostly used ways of balancing any chemical equation. First, you have to look through the chemical equation like writing a compare and contrast essay by identifying all the compounds and their coefficients. After checking the equation, we can now formulate the coefficients to be used in order to balance the equation. An example on balancing chemical equations by inspection is given below
    • NH4NO3 → N2O + H2O


Before balancing chemical equations, notice both left and right hand side of the equation has 2 nitrogen denoted with the symbol N. Both nitrogen is balanced as there is 2 on each side of the equation. Let’s check out the oxygen denoted by symbol O, 3 oxygen on the left but only 2 oxygen on the right side. This means oxygen need to be balanced. Likewise, the hydrogen denoted by the symbol H, it has 4 hydrogens on the left and just 2 hydrogens on the right side making the equation unbalanced. Thus, it needs balancing. In this situation, both hydrogen and oxygen can be balanced together by adding a coefficient 2 behind the hydrogen symbol on the right hand side of the equation.

      NH4NO3 → N2O + 2H2O.


The above equation has now been balanced on both sides of the reaction while the mass conservation is satisfied as well. Balancing chemical equations by method of inspection is not that difficult rather too easy.

    • Algebraic method: The algebraic method of Balancing Chemical Equations require more focus and attention on individual elements or compound as a whole
    • .


Let’s use the below chemical reaction:

      C4H10 + O2 → CO2 + H2O


To Balance Chemical Equations algebraically, unknown coefficients will be added in front of each molecular species in the equation

      xC4H10 + yO2 → zCO2 + wH2O


In this case case study topics, there are 4 unknowns, x, y, z and w; For Carbon, we have the condition: 4x = z; for hydrogen: we have 10x = 2w; For oxygen: we have 2y = 2z + w. This gives a set of only 3 equations for the 4 unknowns. The 4th condition comes from identifying the chemical equations which specify the relative amounts of both the reactants and products before balancing the chemical equation. We may take one of the coefficients to be 1, which then leaves us with only 3 unknowns and 3 conditions to determine them. Thus, the balanced equation could be written as.

      C4H10 + 13/2 O2 → 4CO2 + 5H2O


This is a perfectly fine way of writing the equation, however, customarily, it is necessary to use integers as coefficients while attempting balancing chemical equations, in accordance with the law of combining volumes and Avogadro's hypothesis. Therefore, multiplying all through the equation by 2 on both sides and obtain the final result:

      2C4H10 + 13O2 → 8CO2 + 10H2O


Balancing Chemical Equations: History, classifications

Some philosophers, postulated theories of transformation or the process of synthesizing of raw materials. Any substance is made up of 4 basic elements, they include: fire, water, air and earth. Scientists in the middle ages tried to convert lead into gold and for this purpose, they use reactions consisting of lead and lead-copper alloys with sulfur. Chemical substances that do not naturally occur in nature has long been tried. The process synthesizing chemical substances involved heating of sulfate and nitrate minerals e.g. sulfate, alum and saltpeter. This been said, balancing chemical equations can easily be done. In the 17th century, Johann Rudolph Glauber synthesized hydrochloric acid and sodium sulfate by combining sulfuric acid and sodium chloride. The development of the lead chamber process in the year 1746 as well as the Leblanc process, paved way for a large-scale production of sulfuric acid and sodium carbonate.

Chemical equations are classified according to 4 patterns:

      • Combination: A combination reaction is one in which two or more of the reactants are combined together to form the product. An example can be reaction between sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl2) to form sodium chloride (NaCl), or the popular table salt.
      • 2 Na + Cl2 → 2 NaCl


      • Decomposition: In a decomposition reaction, the reactant decomposes or breakdown to form two or more products. For example, calcium carbonate breaks down at high temperatures to form calcium oxide and carbon dioxide. Reaction of this nature is used industrially to produce large quantities of calcium oxide.
      • Displacement: A displacement reaction also known as single replacement reaction that can happen when one element reacts with another compound to form a new compound but produce a different element. A good example of balancing chemical equations is the reaction that releases silicon from silicon dioxide, SiO2, via its reaction with carbon producing Carbon monoxide as the reaction's other product. When further purified, the silicon can be used in computer chips.
      • SiO2 (s ) + 2 C (s ) → Si (s ) + 2 CO (g )


      • Exchange: During an exchange reaction, a compound can exchange its elements. The best kind of exchange reaction in this case is the neutralization reaction. This reaction occurs between an acid and a base. The reaction of sodium hydroxide, with hydrochloric acid so as to produce NaCl and water is such a reaction. In this case of balancing chemical equations, Na+ switches partners from OH− to Cl−, and H+ from Cl− to OH−.
      • NaOH (aq ) + HCl (aq ) → NaCl (aq ) + H2O (l )


Chemical reactions are used in the field of chemical engineering for the production of new compounds from some natural raw materials. These raw materials can either be petroleum or mineral ores. With the help of catalysts, the amount of energy needed for the reaction to occur is reduced while its reaction rates are being increased.

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