IB Chemistry SL

Revision Notes

1.1.2 Equations

Balancing Equations

  • A symbol equation is a shorthand way of describing a chemical reaction using chemical symbols to show the number and type of each atom in the reactants and products
  • A word equation is a longer way of describing a chemical reaction using only words to show the reactants and products

Balancing equations

  • During chemical reactions, atoms cannot be created or destroyed
  • The number of each atom on each side of the reaction must therefore be the same
    • E.g. the reaction needs to be balanced
  • When balancing equations remember:
    • Not to change any of the formulae
    • To put the numbers used to balance the equation in front of the formulae
    • To balance firstly the carbon, then the hydrogen and finally the oxygen in combustion reactions of organic compounds
  • When balancing equations follow the following the steps:
    • Write the formulae of the reactants and products
    • Count the numbers of atoms in each reactant and product
    • Balance the atoms one at a time until all the atoms are balanced
    • Use appropriate state symbols in the equation
  • The physical state of reactants and products in a chemical reaction is specified by using state symbols
    • (s) solid
    • (l) liquid
    • (g) gas
    • (aq) aqueous

Ionic equations

  • In aqueous solutions ionic compounds dissociate into their ions
  • Many chemical reactions in aqueous solutions involve ionic compounds, however only some of the ions in solution take part in the reactions
  • The ions that do not take part in the reaction are called spectator ions
  • An ionic equation shows only the ions or other particles taking part in a reaction, without showing the spectator ions

Worked Example

Balance the following equation:

Magnesium + Oxygen Magnesium oxide

Answer:

Step 1: Write out the symbol equation showing reactants and products

Mg + O2 → MgO

Step 2: Count the numbers of atoms in each reactant and product

Atoms, Molecules & Stoichiometry Worked example - Balancing equations table, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Step 3: Balance the atoms one at a time until all the atoms are balanced

2Mg + O2 → 2MgO

This is now showing that 2 moles of magnesium react with 1 mole of oxygen to form 2 moles of magnesium oxide

Step 4: Use appropriate state symbols in the fully balanced equation

2Mg(s) + O2(g) → 2MgO(s)

Worked Example

  1. Balance the following equation
    Zinc + copper(II) sulfate Zinc sulfate + copper
  2. Write down the ionic equation for the above reaction

Answer 1:

Step 1: To balance the equation, write out the symbol equation showing reactants and products

Zn  + CuSO4  → ZnSO4 + Cu

Step 2: Count the numbers of atoms in each reactant and product. The equation is already balanced

Atoms, Molecules & Stoichiometry Worked example - Equations (balancing & ionic) table, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Step 3: Use appropriate state symbols in the equation

Zn (s)  + CuSO4 (aq)  → ZnSO4 (aq) + Cu (s)

Answer 2:

Step 1:  The full chemical equation for the reaction is

Zn (s)  + CuSO4 (aq)  → ZnSO4 (aq) + Cu (s)

Step 2:  Break down reactants into their respective ions

Zn (s)  + Cu2+ SO42- (aq)  → Zn2+SO42- (aq) + Cu (s) 

Step 3:  Cancel the spectator ions on both sides to give the ionic equation

Zn (s)  + Cu2+SO42- (aq)  → Zn2+SO42- (aq) + Cu (s)

Zn (s)  + Cu2+(aq)  → Zn2+ (aq) + Cu (s)

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