Some Basic Concepts of Chemistry

Laws of Chemical Combination

When you write the various chemical equations, do you balance them? What happens when you don’t balance them? Your marks get cut. That is okay. But, what exactly happens? There are various laws of Chemical Combinations that govern these facts. So, apart from getting your marks cut, these laws are important because they help to keep things in place. What do we mean by this? Let us read about it below!

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Laws of Chemical Combinations

Chemistry is the study of the change of matter from one form to the other. These changes often occur as a result of the combination of two different types of matter. There are certain rules that govern the combination of different elements to form different compounds. These rules are, what we call, the laws of chemical combinations.

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There are five basic laws of chemical combinations that govern the chemical combinations of elements. What are they and what do they signify? Let us read more about these laws in the section below.

1) Law of Conservation of Mass

French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier in 1789, studied this law. This law states that “In all physical and chemical changes, the total mass of the reactants is equal to that of the products” or “Mass can neither be created nor destroyed.”

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We also refer to this law as the law of indestructibility of matter. The mass and energy are interconvertible but the total sum of the mass and energy during any physical or chemical change remains constant. That is why your teacher cuts your marks when you don’t balance the equations! Understand now?

Learn what quantity of elements are perfect for reaction by studying Stoichiometric Calculations.

Chemical Combinations

2) Law of Constant Composition or Definite Proportions

French chemist,  J.L. Proust in 1799, discovered this law. It states that “A chemical compound is always found to be made up of the same elements combined together in the same fixed proportion by mass”.

For example, a sample of pure water from various sources or any country is always made up of only hydrogen and oxygen. These elements are always in the same fixed ratio of 1:8 by mass. We can prepare a sample of carbon dioxide in the laboratory. We can do this in various ways like:

  • Heating limestone
  • Burning coal in air
  • The action of dilute hydrochloric acid on marble
  • Heating sodium carbonate

However, we will always find that it contains the same elements, carbon, and oxygen, in the same fixed ratio of 3:8 by mass.

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Limitation of this Law

It is not applicable if an element exists in different isotopes which may be involved in the formation of the compound. The elements may combine in the same ratio but the compounds formed may be different.

Learn how to determine the Percentage composition of the solution.

3) Law of Multiple Proportions

When two elements combine to form two or more chemical compounds, then the masses of one of the elements which combined with a fixed mass of the other, bear a simple ratio to one another. For eg, Carbon combines with oxygen to form two compounds namely carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

In carbon dioxide, 12 parts by mass of carbon combine with 32 parts by mass of oxygen while in carbon monoxide, 12 parts by mass of carbon combine with 16 parts by mass of oxygen. The masses of oxygen which combined with a fixed mass of carbon in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are 16 and 32. These masses of oxygen bear a simple ratio of 16:32 or 1:2 to each other.

Taking another example of the Compounds of Sulphur and oxygen, we see something similar. The element sulphur also forms two oxides Sulphur dioxide and sulphur trioxide. In sulphur dioxide, 32 parts by mass of Sulphur combine with 32 parts by mass of oxygen. On the other hand, in sulphur trioxide, 32 parts by mass of Sulphur combines with 48 parts by mass of oxygen.

The masses of oxygen which combined with the fixed mass of sulphur in the two oxides are 32 and 48. These bear a simple ratio of 32:48 or 2:3 to each other.

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4) Law of Reciprocal Proportion

This law was put forward by Richter in 1792. It states that “The ratio of masses of 2 elements, A and B which combines separately with a fixed mass of the third element C is either the same or some multiple of the ratio of the masses in which A and B combine directly with each other”.

For example, the elements carbon and oxygen combine separately with the third element hydrogen to form methane and water. However, they combine directly with each other to form carbon dioxide. In methane, 12 parts by mass of carbon combine with 4 parts by mass of hydrogen. In water, 2 parts by mass of hydrogen combine with 16 parts by mass of oxygen.

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The masses of carbon and oxygen which combine with a fixed mass of hydrogen are 12 and 32 ie.they are in the ratio 12:32 or 3:8. In carbon dioxide, 12 parts by mass of carbon combine directly with 32 parts by mass of oxygen ie they combined directly in the ratio of 12:32 or 3:8. This is exactly the same as the first ratio.

5) Gay Lussac’s Law of Gaseous Volume

When gases react together they always do so in volumes which bear a simple ratio to one another and to the volume of the products, if these are also gases. This holds true provided all measurements of volumes are done under similar conditions of temperature and pressure.

Read the Importance and Scope of Chemistry here.

Solved Example for You

Q: Give an example of Gay Lussac’s Law of Gaseous Volume.

Ans: A simple example to prove the Gay Lussac’s law is that of hydrogen and chlorine. 1 volume of hydrogen and 1 volume of chlorine always combine to form two volumes of hydrochloric acid gas. The ratio between the volumes of the reactants and the product in this reaction is simple, i.e., 1:1:2.

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