Q:

Why must chemical equations be balanced?

A:

Balancing a chemical equation is important because it shows the ratio of elements needed for the reaction to proceed properly. This allows scientists and researchers to use mathematical formulas to determine how much of one reactant is needed to produce the product.

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When balancing a chemical equation, the Law of Conservation of Mass is used to determine that the same number of atoms of each element is present on each side of the equation. Atoms are counted by multiplying the subscript times the number in front of the molecule, atom or compound, which is known as the coefficient. The coefficient represents the ratio of the particular reactant or product, meaning how many times it is consumed or produced. In balanced equations, only whole numbers are used as coefficients. The coefficient or subscript is not written out if they equal 1.

Balanced chemical equations also include the state of matter that the reactants and products are found in. These can include gaseous, solid, liquid or aqueous. Aqueous compounds are usually ionic compounds. Ionic compounds have a special form of balanced equation called a net ionic equation that only includes the ions that react, disregarding reactants or products that remain unbonded or unchanged.

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