This is “Some Types of Chemical Reactions”, section 5.4 from the book Introduction to Chemistry: General, Organic, and Biological (v. 1.0). For details on it (including licensing), click here.

For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (72 MB) or just this chapter (6 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).

Has this book helped you? Consider passing it on:
Creative Commons supports free culture from music to education. Their licenses helped make this book available to you.
DonorsChoose.org helps people like you help teachers fund their classroom projects, from art supplies to books to calculators.

5.4 Some Types of Chemical Reactions

Learning Objective

  1. Classify a given chemical reaction into a variety of types.

Although there are untold millions of possible chemical reactions, most can be classified into a small number of general reaction types. Classifying reactions has two purposes: it helps us to recognize similarities among them, and it enables us to predict the products of certain reactions. A particular reaction may fall into more than one of the categories that we will define in this book.

A combination (composition) reactionA chemical reaction that makes a single substance from two or more reactants. is a chemical reaction that makes a single substance from two or more reactants. There may be more than one molecule of product in the balanced chemical equation, but there is only one substance produced.

For example, the equation

4Fe + 3O2 → 2Fe2O3

is a combination reaction that produces Fe2O3 from its constituent elements—Fe and O2. Combination reactions do not have to combine elements, however. The chemical equation

Fe2O3 + 3SO3 → Fe2(SO4)3

shows a combination reaction in which Fe2O3 combines with three molecules of SO3 to make Fe2(SO4)3.

Example 3

Which equations are combination reactions?

  1. Co(s) + Cl2(g) → CoCl2(s)
  2. CO(g) + Cl2(g) → COCl2(g)
  3. N2H4(ℓ) + O2(g) → N2(g) + 2H2O(ℓ)

Solution

  1. This is a combination reaction.
  2. This is a combination reaction. (The compound COCl2 is called phosgene and, in the past, was used as a gassing agent in chemical warfare.)
  3. This is not a combination reaction.

Skill-Building Exercise

    Which equations are combination reactions?

  1. P4(s) + 6Cl2(g) → 4PCl3(g)

  2. SO3(ℓ) + H2O(ℓ) → H2SO4(ℓ)

  3. NaOH(s) + HCl(g) → NaCl(s) + H2O(ℓ)

A decomposition reactionA chemical reaction in which a single substance is converted into two or more products. is the reverse of a combination reaction. In a decomposition reaction, a single substance is converted into two or more products. There may be more than one molecule of the reactant, but there is only one substance initially. For example, the equation

2NaHCO3(s) → Na2CO3(s) + CO2(g) + H2O(ℓ)

is a decomposition reaction that occurs when NaHCO3 is exposed to heat. Another example is the decomposition of KClO3:

2KClO3(s) → 2KCl(s) + 3O2(g)

This reaction was once commonly used to generate small amounts of oxygen in the chemistry lab.

Note

The decomposition reaction of NaHCO3 is the reaction that occurs when baking soda is poured on a small kitchen fire. The intent is that the H2O and CO2 produced by the decomposition will smother the flames.

A combustion reactionA chemical reaction accompanied by the production of light and/or heat, typically a vigorous reaction because of combination with oxygen. occurs when a substance combines with molecular oxygen to make oxygen-containing compounds of other elements in the reaction. One example is the burning of acetylene (C2H2) in torches:

2C2H2 + 5O2 → 4CO2 + 2H2O

Oxygen (in its elemental form) is a crucial reactant in combustion reactions, and it is also present in the products.

Note

Energy in the form of heat is usually given off as a product in a combustion reaction as well.

Example 4

Identify each type of reaction.

  1. 2K(s) + S(s) + 2O2(g) → K2SO4(s)
  2. (NH4)2Cr2O7(s) → N2(g) + Cr2O3(s) + 4H2O(ℓ)
  3. CH4(g) + 2O2(g) → CO2(g) + 2H2O(ℓ)

Solution

  1. Multiple reactants are combining to make a single product, so this reaction is a combination reaction.
  2. A single substance reacts to make several products, so we have a decomposition reaction.
  3. Oxygen reacts with a compound to make carbon dioxide (an oxide of carbon) and water (an oxide of hydrogen). This is a combustion reaction.

Skill-Building Exercise

    Identify each type of reaction.

  1. C2H5OH + 3O2 → 2CO2 + 3H2O

  2. 2Ca(s) + O2(g) → 2CaO(s)

  3. CaCO3(s) → CaO(s) + CO2(g)

Concept Review Exercises

  1. What is the difference between a combination reaction and a combustion reaction?

  2. Give the distinguishing characteristic(s) of a decomposition reaction.

  3. How do we recognize a combustion reaction?

Answers

  1. A combination reaction produces a certain substance; a combustion reaction is a vigorous reaction, usually a combination with oxygen, that is accompanied by the production of light and/or heat.

  2. In a decomposition reaction, a single substance reacts to make multiple substances as products.

  3. A combustion reaction is typically a vigorous reaction accompanied by light and/or heat, usually because of reaction with oxygen.

Key Takeaway

  • There are several recognizable types of chemical reactions: combination, decomposition, and combustion reactions are examples.

Exercises

  1. Identify each type of reaction.

    1. C6H5CH3 + 9O2 → 7CO2 + 4H2O
    2. 2NaHCO3 → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2
    3. C + 2H2 → CH4
  2. Identify each type of reaction.

    1. P4O10 + 6H2O → 4H3PO4
    2. FeO + SO3 → FeSO4
    3. CaCO3(s) → CO2(g) + CaO(s)
  3. Identify each type of reaction.

    1. 2NH4NO3(s) → 2N2(g) + 4H2O(g) + O2(g)
    2. Hg(ℓ) + ½O2 (g) → HgO(s)
    3. CH2CH2(g) + Br2(ℓ) → CH2BrCH2Br
  4. Identify each type of reaction.

    1. Ti(s) + O2(g) → TiO2(s)
    2. H2SO3(aq) → H2O(ℓ) + SO2(g)
    3. 3O2(g) → 2O3(g)

Answers

    1. combustion
    2. decomposition
    3. combination
    1. decomposition
    2. combustion or combination
    3. combination