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Combustion Reactions

Introduction to Combustion


Combustion releases heat and often flame.

Combustion releases heat and often flame.

Mmdi, Getty Images

What Is a Combustion Reaction?

A combustion reaction is a major class of chemical reactions. Combustion usually occurs when a hydrocarbon reacts with water to produce carbon dioxide and water. In the more general sense, combustion involves a reaction between any combustible material and an oxidizer to form an oxidized product. Combustion is an exothermic reaction, so it releases heat, but sometimes the reaction proceeds so slowly that a temperature change is not noticeable. Good signs that you are dealing with a combustion reaction include the presence of oxygen as a reactant and carbon dioxide, water and heat as products. Inorganic combustion reactions might not form all of the products, but are recognizable by the reaction of oxygen.

General Form of a Combustion Reaction

hydrocarbon + oxygen → carbon dioxde + water

Examples of Combustion Reactions

  • combustion of methane
    CH4(g) + 2 O2(g) → CO2(g) + 2 H2O(g)


  • burning of naphthalene
    C10H8 + 12 O2 → 10 CO2 + 4 H2O


  • combustion of ethane
    2 C2H6 + 7 O2 → 4 CO2 + 6 H2O

More About Types of Reactions

Classifying Chemical Reactions
Video: What Are the Types of Chemical Reactions?
Chemical Reactions Quiz
Types of Inorganic Chemical Reactions
Synthesis Reactions

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