SCIENCE ACTIVITY
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Combustion

Purpose

To use the Equation-Balancing Tutor by Quantum Simulations™ as a tool to balance several combustion-reaction equations.

Materials

  • Equation-Balancing Tutor
  • 3" x 5" card
The Story

Workers digging in front of Medina (OH) General Hospital struck a main gas line on Monday. The flames that resulted reached 50 to 70 feet into the air.

Although no one was injured, the intense fire created a panic. State Route 18 was closed in both directions, and the hospital had to divert incoming patients to other area facilities. Medina General also canceled all outpatient testing and outpatient and regular surgeries.

Federal inspectors are investigating and they need your help to complete their work.

As a chemist, your specialty is chemical reactions. Because of your expertise, you have been asked by the inspectors to help them with the chemistry portion of their final report. 

They want you to give them a balanced equation for the combustion of natural gas and for the combustion of at least two other fossil fuels.

Procedure

Natural gas is mainly methane--a simple compound that has a carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogen atoms. Methane is a highly flammable odorless gas. When it burns, it leaves behind no ash and very little air pollution.
The formula for methane: CH4
Combustion of methane involves its reaction with oxygen from the air. Heat, light, carbon dioxide and water vapor are released.
That reaction equation is written: CH4 + O2 --> CO2 + H2O
Use the Equation-Balancing Tutor as you try to balance this equation. The Equation-Balancing Tutor can be found at a web address that your teacher will provide to you.
The inspectors would also like to compare the combustion of methane with the combustion of several other fuels. Use the Equation-Balancing Tutor to balance the following equations:
Methanol   CH3OH + O2 --> CO2 + H2O
Gasoline   C8H18 + O2 --> CO2 + H2O
Hydrogen   H2 + O2 --> H2O

Conclusion

Address a 3" x 5" card to the Federal Inspectors who investigated the Medina-pipeline explosion.
Their address is:
Office of Pipeline Safety
U.S. Department of Transportation,
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington D.C. 20590
Attention: Medina Pipeline Inspectors

Be sure to place your return address in the upper left-hand corner.

Now write the four balanced equations on the other side of the 3" x 5" card and label each reaction with the name of the substance that is burning. Use your best handwriting.
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