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What Happens When Metals are Burnt in Air?

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Metals Burnt in Air: An Introduction

Air and a variety of metals react to generate metal oxides. Sodium and potassium are both soft metals that are easily sliced, exhibiting a surface that is initially shiny but quickly becomes dull.


The volatile oxides evaporation is created when platinum reacts with air at high temperatures, which significantly raises the platinum losses in oxygen-containing environments when compared to vacuum situations.


Due to their strong reactions with air, lithium, potassium, and sodium are kept submerged in kerosene oil to avoid any unintended reactions with either air or water. The nature of the metal oxides is basic. The basic metal oxides shift red litmus paper to blue. So, in this article let’s see more about the reactivity of metals with air using certain examples with its reactions.


What Happens When Metals are Burnt in Air?

Metal oxides are created when specific metals burnt in air.

\[\text{Metals}+ \text{Oxygen}\to \text{MetalOxide}\]


The majority of metals have this chemical feature, combining with oxygen to create the corresponding metallic oxides.


The examples of what happens when metals are burnt in air are explained below:


What Happens When Magnesium is Burnt in Air?

Magnesium Mg burns in air to give magnesium oxide (MgO) and while burning it appears a dazzling light.

\[2Mg + {O_2} \to 2MgO\]

Mg Burnt in Air


Mg Burnt in Air


What Occurs if Sodium Burns in the Air?

If sodium is heated in the presence of air, it begins to burn with an orange glow and produces a combination of sodium peroxide (Na2O2) and sodium oxide (Na2O).

If sodium is heated or exposed to flames, it begins to burn in the air right away.

\[4Na + {O_2} \to 2N{a_2}O\]

\[2Na + {O_2} \to N{a_2}{O_2}\]


What Occurs When Zinc Burns in the Air?

When burned in air, zinc initially begins to vaporize before a light coating of zinc oxide is created on top of it.

\[2Zn + {O_2} \to 2ZnO\]


What Occurs When Iron Burns in the Air?

Iron filings burn strongly when exposed to air and are sprayed with burner flame. Just when iron is burnt in the air, iron gets hot. Iron doesn't react with oxygen in the air and doesn't even react when heated.


What Occurs When Copper (Cu) Burns in the Air?

Whenever copper is heated or burned in the presence of atmospheric air, a coating of copper (II) oxide (CuO) that is black in colour forms on top of the metal.

\[2Cu + {O_2} \to 2CuO\]


Although copper (II) oxide forms a dark layer on top of it, it does not burn in air. Copper (I) oxide (Cu2O) is also formed through the oxidation of copper and copper peroxide (CuO2), and copper (III) oxide (Cu2O3) also exists.


What Occurs When Lithium Burns in the Air?

Lithium begins to burn with a red-tinged flame whenever heated or burned in the presence of air, producing lithium oxide.

\[4Li + {O_2} \to 2L{i_2}O\]

When heated or exposed to flame, lithium also instantly begins to burn with a red-tinged flame.


Effects of Burning Potassium in Air

Potassium produces potassium superoxide (KO2) and potassium peroxide (K2O2) whenever it is burned in the air. Potassium can also form potassium oxide (K2O) when burnt in atmospheric air.

\[2K + {O_2} \to {K_2}{O_2}\]

\[K + {O_2} \to K{O_2}\]

Whenever potassium is heated or exposed to flames, it dissolves instantly.


Interesting Facts

  • Since some metals are quickly oxidised, the metals near the top of the reactivity series are strong reducing agents. These metals rust/tarnish quite quickly.

  • As you move down the series, the metals' reducing power becomes less and less effective.

  • While descending the metal reactivity sequence, the electropositivity of the metals similarly decreases.

  • When interacting with diluted HCl or H2SO4, all metals above hydrogen in the reactivity sequence release H2 gas.

  • Higher ranking metals demand more energy to separate them from ores and other molecules.


Key Features to Remember

  • Metal oxide is created when a metal and air reacts together.

  • Metal + oxygen = metal oxide is the fundamental equation for the metal reaction with air.

  • When iron is subjected to air, a type of iron oxide called rust is formed slowly. Steel, an alloy that can be created from iron, has a higher corrosion resistance.

  • When iron metal is in contact with heat from a burner and subjected to air, iron filings burn vigorously.

  • It does not ignite in air despite copper oxide building up a black coating on top of it.

Last updated date: 28th Sep 2023
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FAQs on What Happens When Metals are Burnt in Air?

1. What is oxygen's impact on metal?

A few of the metal corrodes (or oxidizes) and form the corresponding metal oxide on the top as a result of a chemical reaction between the metal surface and indeed the oxygen prevalent in the air. Corrosion compounds can be seen clearly and are often quite free in some metals, like steel. The addition of oxygen to the metal surface rises when oxygen level rises due to variations in the character of the corrosive compounds formed by the particulate magnetic oxide of iron existing on these metals at low oxygen levels.

2. Which metal reacts rapidly with air? Why?

The metals that are most reactive will react even with air, whereas the metals that are least reactive won't react even with acid. Aluminium reacts quickly in air to produce an oxide layer on its surface. Other than aluminium, alkali earth metals like (sodium, lithium, potassium, rubidium, etc.) are delicate, glossy metals with low melting points when they are in their purest forms. These alkali metals easily react with moisture and the atmosphere air. The hydrogen gas produced as a byproduct of the processes, which are highly exothermic, ignites the fire.

3. Mention any one metal which does not react with air and its reason?

Experiments were done on the reactions of different metals with air, water, and acids. Some metals do not, nevertheless, react with certain reagents. Certain metals like silver and gold do not interact under normal atmospheric air, they are referred to as noble metals and are placed at the bottom of the activity series. This is one of the reasons why gold and silver metals are used to make jewellery. Due to its inertness to reactions, the metals gold and silver do not react with atmospheric air.