What is combustion ? Please explain for kids.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Combustion is the reaction of a substance with oxygen, usually producing heat and light. Another word for combustion is burning. Where there's a fire, something is combusting. The ingredients of a chemical reaction are called reactants. The reactants that are needed for combustion are fuel and oxygen. Combustion produces one...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Combustion is the reaction of a substance with oxygen, usually producing heat and light. Another word for combustion is burning. Where there's a fire, something is combusting. The ingredients of a chemical reaction are called reactants. The reactants that are needed for combustion are fuel and oxygen. Combustion produces one or more products which have oxygen combined with another element, like carbon dioxide which has the chemical formula `CO_2` .

Most substances that burn contain the chemical elements carbon and hydrogen. Coal is pure carbon. Wood, paper, natural gas, gasoline, kerosene and candle wax all contain carbon and hydrogen. When a hydrocarbon burns it produces carbon dioxide and water and gives off energy (heat and light). Here's the chemical equation for the combustion of methane, which is a natural gas that's used for cooking and warming houses:

`CH_4 + 2 O_2 -gt CO_2 + 2H_2O`

In a chemical equation the reactants are on the left and the products are on the right. The arrow means "yields" or "produces", and also represents an equal sign because there are the same number of atoms on each side. The chemical formula of each substance shows the number of each atom in a molecule, for example methane has one carbon and four hydrogens.  

An example of combustion that doens't involve carbon is magnesium burning. Magnesium is a metal that produces the bright white sparkles in fireworks. It combines with oxygen to produce magnesium oxide, which is a white powdery substance. 

`2 Mg + O_2 -gt 2 MgO`

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team