Why must we BALANCE chemical equations?

1 Answer
Apr 7, 2016

If you were a banker or an accountant, what is the importance of balancing your accounts?


In the banking and finance industries, there is a saying, #"for every credit there must be a corresponding debit"#. That is for every credit item in the accounts, each deposit to an account, there must be a corresponding debit item to some other account (or ready cash). If there is not, your customers will come screaming.

What works in the banking industry, also works on a much larger scale in chemistry. In every chemical reaction, mass is CONSERVED. FOR even the simplest reaction, if you have 1 g of reactants (from all sources), at most you going to get 1 g of product. In practice, you are not even going to get that. Losses invariably occur on handling.

The principle of conservation of mass, underlies reaction stoichiometry, which is a very fancy way of saying, #"garbage in equals garbage out"#. Reactants have definite and measurable masses, even as the atomic quantities; it follows that products have equal masses to the reactants, because in a chemical reaction the reactant atoms and molecules chemically transform.

This is why I suppose teachers place so much emphasis on balancing chemical equations. If the equation is not balanced, you know that it is unrealistic, and chemically unsound.