9 Examples of Combustion In Everyday Life

Combustion is called any type of exothermic chemical reaction (that generates heat), relatively fast and that develops in gaseous or heterogeneous phases (liquid-gas or solid-gas), both in a controlled manner (such as in internal combustion engines). as uncontrolled (in explosions). For example a bonfire, fireworks, a gas stove.

However, traditional approaches (the classical theory) understand combustion as a process of rapid oxidation of fuels, formed mainly by hydrogen, carbon, and sometimes sulfur, which takes place in the presence of oxygen and releases large amounts of thermal energy .

In these reactions, products such as carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and water vapor are also usually generated, among other solid waste from the process, depending on the nature of the fuel (the substance that is consumed) and the oxidizer (the substance that promotes the reaction) involved.

Fire, for example, is a product that emits heat and light from the violent oxidation of combustible matter.

Combustion phases

Every combustion process is actually a set of rapid and simultaneous reactions, which are usually taken as one. This process includes the following stages or phases:

  • A first stage or pre-reaction . The hydrocarbons in the fuel decompose and react with the oxygen present in the air, thus forming radicals, that is, very molecularly unstable compounds. This starts a chain reaction of compounds appearing and disappearing, which tends to create more than it destroys.
  • Second stage or oxidation . Most of the heat energy is generated here , when oxygen reacts with radicals and initiates an electron displacement process. The prior accumulation of radicals leads to a massive and violent reaction known as an explosion.
  • Third stage . The oxidation of the radicals is completed and the gas molecules that will be released in combustion are formed .

Combustion types

Three different types of combustion are commonly distinguished:

  • Complete or perfect combustion . It is a reaction in which combustible materials are completely oxidized, producing oxygenated compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or water vapor.
  • Stoichiometric or neutral . It is an ideal complete combustion, which uses just the right amounts of air for its reaction and which, therefore, generally occurs in the controlled environment of a laboratory.
  • Incomplete combustion . Half-oxidized (unburned) compounds appear in the combustion gases, such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen, carbon particles, etc.

9 Examples of combustion

  1. A bonfire . A typical example is the campfire, which has accompanied man throughout the centuries. It is a pile of organic matter (usually firewood, dry leaves, paper, etc.) piled up to concentrate the heat and keep the reaction alive, in contact with oxygen and in the initial presence of heat (a spark produced with a phosphorus, for example).
  2. A match . The most emblematic case of combustion is that of the safety match (matches, matches, etc.), which consists of a wooden or waxed paper stick, with a head of potassium chlorate and sulfur that, when scraped against a rough surface composed of red phosphorus and other compounds, is heated by friction and initiates combustion that generates a flame.
  3. A gas stove . Domestic stoves operate on the basis of the combustion of a flammable gas, generally a mixture of propane (C 3 H 8 ) and butane (C 4 H 10 ), extracted from a pipe or cylinder and brought into contact with air and with an initial charge of heat energy (like the pilot light).
  4. Strong bases and organic matter . Strong bases ( such as caustic soda, caustic potash and other corrosive agents with extreme basic pH ) can cause a drastic oxidation reaction upon contact with organic matter, which can burn on contact and even start fires, since this reaction is very exothermic.
  5. The will-o’-the-wisps . Known by this name since ancient times and associated with spirits and other supernatural manifestations , these spontaneous flames that take place in swamps and swamps of abundant decomposing organic matter (and therefore many hydrocarbon gases) are an example of combustion in nature.
  6. Fireworks . They are displays of color, sound and light that consist of small detonations and combustions of gunpowder and other elements contained in a cylindrical cartridge. When the fuse is lit, the fire eventually introduces the heat charge necessary to initiate combustion and this to detonate the gunpowder in a chain reaction.
  7. The shot of a revolver . Firearms operate based on the introduction of a spark of heat, resulting from the impact of a small hammer on the rear metal of the bullet, which initiates the combustion and subsequent explosion of the gunpowder contained in the ammunition. This reaction is so violent that it generates the force necessary to throw the lead forward with great force.
  8. An internal combustion engine . The engines of cars, boats and other vehicles that operate with fossil fuels (diesel, gasoline, kerosene) are an everyday example of controlled combustion. These combustions consume the hydrocarbons in the fuel and generate controlled explosions that are transformed into movement, as well as gases that are released into the atmosphere.
  9. The forest fires . Just like campfires or wood-burning ovens, forest fires are uncontrolled combustion that spreads across acres of trees, leaves and flammable organic matter unless something is done to stop them. In many cases they are the result of the injection of heat resulting from the action of the sun intensified by the glass of an abandoned bottle, which literally starts the spark of the fire.

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