⏱️ August 6, 2020
Just as net ionic equations provide information about interactions with ions in aqueous solutions, chemical reaction equations are a great way to visually track physical changes and chemical reactions. However, before we can examine these equations to observe these changes, we need to learn how to properly set up the equation for a chemical reaction. In other words, we need to learn how to balance equations. If an equation isn’t balanced, our answers will be incorrect. But why is it bad if it’s unbalanced, and how can we learn to balance equations easily?🤔
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The Law of Conservation of Mass states that the amount of matter stays constant in a closed system. In short, matter cannot be neither created nor destroyed in thin air.
A chemical reaction is a closed system, so the number of atoms that are produced must be equal to the number of atoms put in. The atoms can still rearrange, though. In conclusion, we need to make sure that the number of elements in the reactants is the same as those in the products, even if the products are different than what we started with. Whew🤯. That was a lot. Let’s look at an example to make sense of this.
Here’s the equation: CO (g) + O2 (g) --> CO2 (g)
Get a general feel of the equation, and make sure it’s not already balanced. Take a look at the products and the reactants. Note🧠 the number of similar elements are on both sides. If the number of one element is equal on both sides, it’s balanced.
In this case, there is 1 carbon molecule on both sides, so carbon is balanced. However, there are 3 oxygen molecules on the left and 2 on the right, so oxygen is not.
Look at the elements that are only in one compound on both sides of the equation and have the same number of molecules. In this case, it’s carbon. From this, we know that both of those compounds with carbon will have to have the same coefficient. Thus, we can leave the coefficients of CO and CO2 at 1 for now.
💡Remember that we can only change the coefficients of the molecules. If we change the subscript, we would change the molecule completely (ex. 2NO2 represents two molecules of carbon dioxide, but N2O4 is dinitrogen tetroxide). Coefficients can be fractions, but only rarely.
Find elements that are only in one compound on both sides but have different numbers of molecules on each side. Balance those elements. In our example, we don’t have any in this category (don’t worry😌, the next example will have one!).
Look for elements that appear in multiple compounds on one side. Balance those elements. In our equation, that’s oxygen. Since there is less oxygen on the right, let’s increase the coefficient of CO2 to 2:
CO (g) + O2 (g) --> 2CO2 (g)
As stated in Step 2, since both sides have an equal number of carbon, both CO and CO2 must have the same coefficient so that carbon remains balanced. Thus, we have to increase the coefficient of CO to 2.
2CO (g) + O2 (g) --> 2CO2 (g)
Now let’s make sure it really is balanced:
Sweet! Both the reactants and products have the same number of each molecule. We followed the Law of Conservation of Mass!🥳
Here’s the equation: Li (s) + N2 (g) --> Li3N (s)
Like before, let’s make sure the equation’s not already balanced. Take a look at the products and the reactants. Note the number of similar elements are on both sides.
There is 1 lithium molecule on the left and 3 on the right. There are 2 nitrogen molecules on the left and 1 on the right. Neither lithium nor nitrogen are balanced.
Look at the elements that are only in one compound on both sides of the equation and have the same number of molecules on both sides. Balance those elements. In our example, no such element exists🎉.
Find elements that are only in one compound on both sides but have different numbers of molecules on each side. Balance those elements. In our example, both lithium and nitrogen fall into this category. In this situation, it’s more like guess-and-check, but we can go about it strategically.
Since there are 3 lithium molecules on the right, let’s increase the coefficient of Li to 3.
3Li (s) + N2 (g) --> Li3N (s)
Lithium is all balanced! Now, looking at nitrogen, we notice that there are 2 on the left and only 1 on the right. Let’s increase the coefficient of Li3N to 2.
3Li (s) + N2 (g) --> 2Li3N (s)
Nitrogen looks good! But wait… Lithium is no longer balanced! Fear not, we have the power to change coefficients ✊ Since there are 6 molecules of lithium on the right, let’s increase the coefficient of Li to 6.
6Li (s) + N2 (g) --> 2Li3N (s)
Look at the elements that are in more than one compound. In this example, there is no element.
Time to double check our work.
Woohoo! We balanced another equation! It’s probably evident that the more practice you do, the better you’ll be at balancing equations. Be sure to keep the steps we used in mind:
Make sure the equation isn’t already balanced
Find the elements that are only in one compound on both sides and have the same number of molecules on both sides. These must have equal coefficients.
Look at the elements that are only in one compound on both sides and have the same number of molecules on both sides. Balance them.
Look at the elements that are in more than one compound. Balance them.
Finally, double check your answer and make sure that the number of element X on the reactants side is the same on the products side.
Balance the following equations (include states of matter).
Na3PO4 + AgNO3 --> Ag3PO4 + NaNO3
A reaction between iron (III) oxide and carbon monoxide
🎥 Watch: AP Chemistry - Stoichiometry (Part 1)
🎥Watch: AP Chemistry - Stoichiometry (Part 2)
✍️ Free Response Questions
AP Chemistry Free Response Questions
⚛️ Unit 1: Atomic Structure and Properties
1.1Moles and Molar Mass
1.2Mass Spectroscopy of Elements
1.3Elemental Composition of Pure Substances
1.4Composition of Mixtures
1.5Atomic Structure and Electron Configurations
1.6Photoelectron Spectroscopy & Graph Interp.
🤓 Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structures and Properties
2.0Unit 2 Overview: Molecular and Ionic Bonding
2.1Types of Chemical Bonds
2.2Intramolecular Force and Potential Energy
2.3Ionic Bonding and Ionic Solids
2.4Metallic Bonding and Alloys
2.5Lewis Dot Diagrams
2.6Resonance and Formal Charge
🌀 Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties
3.0Unit 3 Overview: Intermolecular Forces and Properties
3.2Properties of Solids
3.3Solids, Liquids, and Gases
3.4The Ideal Gas Law
3.5The Kinetic Molecular Theory of Gases
3.6Deviations from the Ideal Gas Law
3.7Mixtures and Solutions
3.8Representations of Solutions
3.9Separation of Solids/Mixtures
3.10Solubility and Solubility Rules
3.11Spectroscopy and the Electromagnetic Spectrum
3.12Quantum Mechanics and the Photoelectric Effect
🧪 Unit 4: Chemical Reactions
4.0Unit 4 Overview: Chemical Reactions
4.1Recognizing Chemical Reactions
4.2Net Ionic Equations
4.4Physical vs. Chemical Changes
4.5Stoichiometry & Calculations
4.6Titrations - Intro and Calculations
4.8Intro to Acid-Base Neutralization Reactions
👟 Unit 5: Kinetics
5.0Unit 5 Overview: Kinetics
5.1Defining Rate of Reaction
5.2Introduction to Rate Laws
5.3Rate and Concentration Change
5.4Writing Rate Laws
5.5Collision Model of Kinetics
5.6Reaction Energy and Graphs w/ Energy
5.7Reaction Mechanisms and Elementary Steps
5.8Writing Rate Laws Using Mechanisms
🔥 Unit 6: Thermodynamics
6.0 Unit 6 Overview: Thermochemistry and Reaction Thermodynamics
6.1Endothermic Processes vs. Exothermic Processes
6.2Energy Diagrams of Reactions
6.3Kinetic Energy, Heat Transfer, and Thermal Equilibrium
6.4Heat Capacity and Coffee-Cup Calorimetry
6.5Phase Changes and Energy
6.6Introduction to Enthalpy of Reaction
6.7Bond Enthalpy and Bond Dissociation Energy
6.8Enthalpies of Formation
⚖️ Unit 7: Equilibrium
🍊 Unit 8: Acids and Bases
8.0Unit 8 Overview: Acids and Bases
8.1Introduction to Acids and Bases
Unit 9: Applications of Thermodynamics
🤺 AP Chemistry Essentials
🧐 Multiple Choice Questions
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