What is Combustion ?


Combustion or burning is the sequence exothermic chemical reactions that occur when things (fuels) burn in air and combine with oxygen. The hot gases releases in the process are usually seen as flames.

Fuels of interest are usually organic compounds (especially hydrocarbons), whether in gaseous, liquid or solid phase. Most substances fuels that are burn contains carbon and hydrogen, so basically steam and carbon dioxide are two of the main products of combustion/burning. But if there is limited oxygen, complete combustion may not occur and carbon monoxide may be made.

If substances that are been burn contains nitrogen, sulphur, or chlorine, then hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride and sulphur dioxide are likely to be produced.

Three things are needed for burning:

  1. Fuel
  2. Heat
  3. Oxygen

combustion 1

If any of these three things are removed, the process of combustion stops. So if you are face with putting out a fire, you can do one of following:

  1. Removed/cut off the fuel source of the fire. This might translate in to turning off the electricity, covering the oil with soil or sand, or turning off the gas.
  2. Use foam or water to cover the flame in order to reduce the temperature. Do not use water on oil or electrical flames.
  3. Cut the air supply of the flames with sand, foam or a blanket (fireproof blanket).

Equation showing the combustion of methane in air/oxygen
CH4 (g) + 2O2 (g) → CO2 (g) + 2H2O (g)

Reactants                   Products

Methane                     Carbon dioxide

Oxygen                       Steam

See video below on combustion.


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