Examples of reversible reactions

Ammonium chloride

Ammonium chloride is a white solid. It breaks down when heated, forming ammonia and hydrogen chloride. When these two gases are cool enough, they react together to form ammonium chloride again. This reversible reaction can be modelled as:

ammonium chloride ⇌ ammonia + hydrogen chloride

NH4Cl(s) ⇌ NH3(g) + HCl(g)

The symbol has two half arrowheads, one pointing in each direction. It is used in equations that are reversible reactions:

  • the forward reaction is the one that goes to the right
  • the backward reaction is the one that goes to the left

Copper(II) sulfate

Blue copper(II) sulfate is described as hydrated. The copper(II) ions in its crystal lattice structure are surrounded by water molecules. This water is driven off when blue hydrated copper(II) sulfate is heated, leaving white anhydrous copper(II) sulfate. This reaction is reversible:

hydrated copper(II) sulfate ⇌ anhydrous copper(II) sulfate + water

CuSO4.5H2O(s) ⇌ CuSO4(s) + 5H2O(l)

A bunsen burner heats a bowl of hydrated copper(II) sulfate.

1. A Bunsen burner is used to heat an evaporating basin containing hydrated copper(II) sulfate.