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  • Implication of a Balanced Chemical Equation

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when a chemical reaction occurs, the mass of the products should be equal to the mass of the reactants.A balanced chemical equation occurs when the number of the atoms involved in the reactants side is equal to the number of atoms in the product side.

Zinc + Sulphuric acid Zinc sulphate + Hydrogen

The above word-equation may be represented by the following chemical equation

Zn + H2SO4 ZnSO4 + H2

Let us examine the number of atoms of different elements on both sides of the arrow.

Element

Number of atoms in reactants (LHS)

Number of atoms in products (RHS)
Zn 1 1
H 2 2
S 1 1
O 4 4

As the number of atoms of each element is the same on both sides of the arrow, it is a balanced chemical equation.

Let us try to balance the following chemical equation –

Fe + H2O → Fe3O4 + H2

Step I: To balance a chemical equation, first draw boxes around each formula. Do not change anything inside the boxes while balancing the equation.

Fe + H2O → Fe3O4 + H2

Step II: List the number of atoms of different elements present in the unbalanced equation.

Elements Number of atoms in reactants (LHS) Number of atoms in products (RHS)
Fe 1 3
H 2 2
O 1 4

Step III: It is often convenient to start balancing with the compound that contains the maximum number of atoms. It may be a reactant or a product. In that compound, select the element which has the maximum number of atoms. Using these criteria, we select Fe3O4 and the element oxygen in it. There are four oxygen atoms on the RHS and only one on the LHS. To balance the oxygen atoms.

Atoms of oxygen In reactants In products
(i) Initial 1 (in H2O) 4 (in Fe3O4)
(ii) To balance 1`xx`4 4

To equalize the number of atoms, it must be remembered that we cannot alter the formulae of the compounds or elements involved in the reactions. For example, to balance oxygen atoms we can put coefficient ‘4’ as 4 H2O and not H2O4 or (H2O)4. Now the partly balanced equation becomes–

Fe + 4H2O → Fe3O4 + H2

Step IV: Fe and H atoms are still not balanced. Pick any of these elements to proceed further. Let us balance hydrogen atoms in the partly balanced equation. To equalize the number of H atoms, make the number of molecules of hydrogen as four on the RHS.

Atoms of hydrogen In reactants In products
(i) Initial 8 (in 4 H2O) 2 (in H2)
(ii) To balance 2`xx`4

 

Fe + 4H2O → Fe3O4 + 4H2

Step V: Examine the above equation and pick up the third element which is not balanced. You find that only one element is left to be balanced, that is, iron.

Atoms of iron In reactants In products
(i) Initial 1 (in Fe) 3 (in Fe3O4)
(ii) To balance 1`xx`3 3

To equalise Fe, we take three atoms of Fe on the LHS.

3Fe + 4H2O → Fe3O4 + 4H2

Step VI: Finally, to check the correctness of the balanced equation, we count atoms of each element on both sides of the equation.

3Fe + 4H2O → Fe3O4 + 4H2

The numbers of atoms of elements on both sides of the eq are equal. This equation is now balanced. This method of balancing chemical equations is called hit-and-trial method as we make trials to balance the equation by using the smallest whole number coefficient.

To make a chemical equation more informative, the physical states of the reactants and products are mentioned along with their chemical formulae. The gaseous, liquid, aqueous and solid states of reactants and products are represented by the notations (g), (l), (aq) and (s), respectively. The word aqueous (aq) is written if the reactant or product is present as a solution in water. The balanced Eq becomes

3Fe(s) + 4H2O(g) → Fe3O4(s) + 4H2(g)

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