Combustion Reactions

Last post’s break up had some arguing, but for the most part it was just sad. This time around, get ready for an explosive argument that ends in a catastrophic split. Once again, prepare for a thinly-veiled analogy that uses the chemical symbols as the characters’ names.

Let’s get it started – Blogspot

For this analogy, our couple is made of C and H. To represent their…differing personalities, let’s assign them a number to go with them. C gets a 4 and H gets 10. H’s number is much higher than C’s because they’re much more independent than C. H prefers to hang out at home, getting a lot of work done and taking time for themselves. C, on the other hand, is boisterous and excitable, making friends with everyone and preferring to socialize instead of staying at home. This kind of relationship can work and work well with good communication skills, but there’s a drawback to H’s introvert tendencies: they don’t know how to communicate well.

As their relationship gets more serious, so do their growing misgivings of their compatibility. H doesn’t appreciate C’s lack of work ethic and is tired of being called a “shut-in” or “hermit”. C, for their part, doesn’t like being berated for being so “lazy” and wants H to come party with them to experience life a little. With such big issues weighing on both of their minds and nothing being discussed, tension begins to build. The more time they spend together, the more they start to realize that they aren’t good for each other.

Ironically, it’s space that brings things to a head. H goes on a business trip, parties while they’re there, and posts pictures from the party online for all to see. C stays home, get a bunch of work done, and cleans their shared apartment for H. The pictures set C off, because H never parties with them, and C doing work sets H off because they never do work when H nags them about it!

It’s not a pretty fight. Insults are slung from every direction, attacking everything from personality shortcomings to family members. Objects are tossed with reckless abandon, breaking more than one decorative accessory. The apartment and its occupants are absolute messes, without a shred of composure. Ugly truths and petty lies are thrown into the air to hang, heavy, above the sparring couple. Others in the building are terrified for one or both of the occupants. And they should be.

In the end, C leaves the trashed apartment in hysterics, screaming “It’s over!” through their flood of tears. H, framed in the apartment doorway, shouts back through their own cascade: “Good riddance!”

It echoes through the building, an echo of pain and regret. No one sleeps well that night.

Harsh – PublicDomainPictures

And scene! I’ll give you a second to guess what aspects of the story represent what. Hint: tears still represent good old H2O.

Time’s up! Time to break it down. In the beginning, we start with our seemingly happy couple, C4H10. This is also known as butane, a common lighter fuel. As the story progresses, tension begins to build, representing the heat element necessary to initiate a combustion reaction. The trigger for our epic fight is space, or in the context of the reaction, oxygen. Space, when on the planet, is full of air, which contains high amounts of O2 that humans breathe in. A bit of a stretch, I admit, but it illustrates that combustion cannot proceed without oxygen present.

A typical sight with combustion reactions – Pixabay

After the fight (aka after the reaction has proceeded to completion), we have two negative products: tears and unresolved conflict in the air. Tears, as mentioned above, represents water, one product of a combustion reaction. The unresolved conflict in the air represents carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas that’s deadly to humans. Much in the way that unresolved conflict can slowly destroy a human emotionally. Fun, huh?

Putting all these pieces together, we have the general formula of a combustion reaction. On the reactants side, we have some sort of covalent gas, usually made of C & H atoms, that combines with oxygen in the presence of heat. Once the reaction is done, the products will always be water in its gaseous state and carbon dioxide. Sometimes there will be other products, depending on what atoms were part of the input gas, but water and CO2 will always be on the right side of the arrow.

Here’s our reaction in a visual diagram:

Lumen Biology

And for even more visuals, click here for a video of the butane reaction. For some reason, all of the butane combustion videos are in French, so just watch the reaction take place. I’ll explain some of the phenomena in the video.

  • The flame burns for so long because the butane is being funneled out through a small hole, funneling the reaction like the valve on a lighter
  • The black residue on the plate he holds up is solid carbon dioxide cooled and solidified on the plate
  • He fills the test tube of butane with a liquid that collects the butane and neutralizes it. You don’t want a flammable gas just floating around your house!

To round out this post, I’d like to give control of the narrative to you, the readers! We are done with the 5 major classifications of chemical reactions, so now we can move on to the smaller, subclassifications. I have three in mind, so it’s your decision. Leave a comment picking one of these three reactions (and its corresponding story-analogy) you want me to do next!

  • Reduction-Oxidation Reactions (high school relationships get a sci-fi twist)
  • Gas Decomposition Secondary Reactions (love falls apart even further)
  • Organic Reactions (stereotypes help predict chemical reactions?)

Next post: It’s up to you!



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