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How to Balance Redox Reactions

By Sergey Skudaev

What is Redox Reaction? In the Redox reaction one agent is loosing electrons while another agent is
gaining electrons. An agent that is loosing electrons is oxidized, an agent that gaining electrons is
reduced. Oxidation is loosing electrons, Reduction is gaining electrons. How to memorize that?
Oxidation is related to corrosion, rust. When your bicycle is rusted, then you are loosing it. It may help
you to remember that oxidation is loosing. Some times it is obvious what is oxidized. For example,
S + O2 = SO2 Oxygen is a strong oxidizing agent. Any compound or element that reacts with oxygen is
oxidized. Initially, S was neutral and at the end it becomes S4+. How we calculate that? SO2 is neutral.
In SO2, O has charge -2. Two O have charge -4. Then to make SO2 neutral, S must have charge +4.
X + 2 (-2) = 0 X - 4 = 0 X = +4.
Sometimes it is not obvious what is oxidized and what is reduced.
H2S + FeCl3 = S + FeCl2 + HCl

In the reaction above, in H2S sulfur has charge -2. How we get it? Hydrogen usually has charge +1. In
H2S we have two hydrogen atoms and so their charge is +2. H2S is neutral.
It means that S has charge –2. At the end of reaction sulfur becomes neutral. It is loosing 2 electrons.

S2- - 2e = S

Fe in FeCl3 has charge +3. At the end of reaction it becomes Fe2+. It is gaining one electron.

Fe3+ + 1e = Fe2+

What is oxidized and what is reduced? Sulfur is oxidized because it is loosing electrons and Fe is reduces
because it is gaining electrons. Let us try to balance Redox reactions.

1. NaNO3 = NaNO2 + O2

Let us write half reaction of the oxidation and reduction. Initially nitrogen has charge +5
And at the end of reaction it has charge +3. How do we calculate that?
In NaNO3 oxygen has charge -2. Sodium has charge +1. The molecule of NaNO3 is neutral.
It means that negative charges inside NaNO3 molecule must be equal to positive charges.
Na (+1) + O3 (-2 x 3) = 1 - 6 = - 5. Then nitrogen has to be + 5 to make the molecule neutral.

In NaNO2, nitrogen has charge +3. Nitrogen must receive 2 negative electrons to change its charge from
+5 to +3. 5 + ( – 2) = 3 So we can write N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2

Oxygen initially has charge -2. At the end of reaction it becomes neutral and has charge 0.

So, we can write 2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4

Combine two half reactions and get:

N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2
2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4

Since 2 and 4 can be divided by 2, we get 1 and 2


N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2 1
2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4 2

Now switch positions of 1 and 2:

N5+ + 2e = N3+ | 2 1 2
2O2- - 4e = O2 | 4 2 1

From the above N5+ and N3+ should have coefficient 2 and oxygen should have coefficient 1.

2NaNO3 = 2NaNO2 + O2

Check the equation balance: from both sides of the equation we have 2 Na, 2 N, and 6 O.
We are done

Stoichiometry
How many grams of K2SO4 are produced if 0.5 Liter of 0.1M solution of KOH reacts with 0.3 Liter
of 0.2 M solution of H2SO4? Which initial reactant will be left over?
H2SO4 + 2KOH = K2SO4 + 2H2O

Let us calculate how much KOH and H2SO4 we have in grams.


Mass of one mol of KOH is 39 + 16 + 1 = 56g
1 L of 1M solution of KOH contains 56g of KOH.
Then 1 L of 0.1 M solution will contain 5.6 g KOH.

1 L of 1 M of KOH - 56 g
1 L of 0.1M of KOH - X g X = 56 g * 0.1 M/1 M = 5.6g of KOH

We have 0.5 L of KOH solution.

1 L of KOH - 5.6 g
0.5 L of KOH - X g X = 0.5L * 5.6g / 1 L= 2.8 g KOH. So, we have 2.8 g KOH

Mass of H2SO4 is 2 + 32 + 16*4=98 g

1 L of 1M solution of H2SO4 contains 98g of H2SO4.

1 L of 1 M of H2SO4 solution contains 98g


1 L of 0.2 M of H2SO4 solution contains X g
X = 0.2 * 98 /1 = 19.6 g of H2SO4

1 L of 0.2 M solution contains 19.6 g H2SO4


0.3 L of 0.2 M solution contains X g

X= 0.3 * 19.6 / 1 = 5.8 g. We have 5.8 g of H2SO4


We have 2.8 g of KOH and 5.8 g H2SO4. Which reactant is limited?

From equation, 2 mol of KOH react with one mol of H2SO4

56 * 2 = 112 g KOH reacts with 98 g of H2SO4


2.8 g of KOH react with X g of H2SO4

X = 2.8g * 98 g / 112 g = 2.45 g H2SO4

For 2.8 g KOH we need 2.45 g H2SO4 and we have 5.8 g H2SO4.
It means that H2SO4 will be left over.

KOH is limited reactant and we have to use KOH to calculate how much K2SO4 is produced.

Mass of one mol of K2SO4 is 39*2 + 32 + 64 = 174 g

Two mol of KOH produce one mol of K2SO4.

112 g KOH produce 174g K2SO4


2.8 g KOH produce X g K2SO4

X = 2.8 g * 174 g /112 g = 4.35 g K2SO4

Answer: KOH is limited reactant. 4.35 g K2SO4 is produced.

My tutorial includes 30 Redox equations and 30 Stoichiometryproblem


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