Energy from fuels

Combustion reactions

Many different compounds can be used as fuels, most commonly alkanes and alcohols. When these fuels burn, they release heat energy and light energy to the surroundings in exothermic reactions. Endothermic reactions take in heat energy.

These reactions are known as combustion reactions and can be represented by different equations.

Some propane gas cylinders.

For example, propane gas tanks are commonly sold on petrol station forecourts. These gas bottles have a wide variety of uses including portable heating and cooking for caravans and barbecues.

When propane burns in a plentiful supply of oxygen, it produces both carbon dioxide and water. This change can be represented by a word equation or a formula equation.

Word equation

Propane + oxygen \to carbon\,dioxide + water

Balanced formulae equation

{C_3}{H_8} + 5{O_2} \to 3C{O_2} + 4{H_2}O

A balanced formulae equation, along with the formula triangles you learned in Unit one can be used to calculate information on the quantities of reactants or products involved in a particular reaction.

An equilateral triangle pointing upwards and divided into three parts. The top part represents mass measured in grams. The bottom left part represents number of moles. The bottom right part represents the gram formula mass i.e. the mass of one mole.

Fuels are compounds that react with oxygen to release energy