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Reaction Stoichiometry

Reaction Stoichiometry

By the end of this lesson and the next few, you should be able to:

A balanced chemical equation provides a great deal of information in a very succinct format. Chemical formulas provide the identities of the reactants and products involved in the chemical change, allowing classification of the reaction. Coefficients provide the relative numbers of these chemical species, allowing a quantitative assessment of the relationships between the amounts of substances consumed and produced by the reaction.

These quantitative relationships are known as the reaction’s stoichiometry, a term derived from the Greek words stoicheion (meaning “element”) and metron (meaning “measure”). In the next set of lessons, the use of balanced chemical equations for various stoichiometric applications is explored.

The general approach to using stoichiometric relationships is similar in concept to the way people go about many common activities. Food preparation, for example, offers an appropriate comparison. A recipe for making eight pancakes calls for 1 cup pancake mix, \(\frac{3}{4}\) cup milk, and one egg. The “equation” representing the preparation of pancakes per this recipe is

\(1\text{ cup mix} + \cfrac{3}{4}\text{ cup milk} + 1\text{ egg} \longrightarrow 8\text{ pancakes}\)

If two dozen pancakes are needed for a big family breakfast, the ingredient amounts must be increased proportionally according to the amounts given in the recipe. For example, the number of eggs required to make 24 pancakes is

\(\require{cancel}24 \; \mathrm{\cancel{pancakes}} × \cfrac{1\text{ egg}}{8 \; \mathrm{\cancel{pancakes}}} = 3\text{ eggs}\)

Balanced chemical equations are used in much the same fashion to determine the amount of one reactant required to react with a given amount of another reactant, or to yield a given amount of product, and so forth.

The coefficients in the balanced equation are used to derive stoichiometric factors that permit computation of the desired quantity. To illustrate this idea, consider the production of ammonia by reaction of hydrogen and nitrogen:

\(\mathrm{N_2}(g) + \mathrm{3H_2}(g) \longrightarrow \mathrm{2NH_3}(g)\)

This equation shows ammonia molecules are produced from hydrogen molecules in a 2:3 ratio, and stoichiometric factors may be derived using any amount (number) unit:

\(\cfrac{\mathrm{2 \; NH_3 \; molecules}}{\mathrm{3 \; H_2 \; molecules}} \text{ or } \cfrac{\mathrm{2 \; doz \; NH_3 \; molecules}}{\mathrm{3 \; doz \; H_2 \; molecules}} \text{ or } \cfrac{\mathrm{2 \; mol \; NH_3 \; molecules}}{\mathrm{3 \; mol \; H_2 \; molecules}}\)

These stoichiometric factors can be used to compute the number of ammonia molecules produced from a given number of hydrogen molecules, or the number of hydrogen molecules required to produce a given number of ammonia molecules. Similar factors may be derived for any pair of substances in any chemical equation.

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