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Other types of reactions

We will look at two types of reactions that occur in aqueous solutions. These are ion-exchange reactions and redox reactions. Ion exchange reactions include precipitation reactions, gas forming reactions and acid-base reactions. Redox reactions are electron transfer reactions. It is important to remember the difference between these two types of reactions. In ion exchange reactions ions are exchanged, in electron transfer reactions electrons are transferred. These terms will be explained further in the following sections.

Ion exchange reactions

Ion exchange reactions can be represented by:


Either AD or CB may be a solid or a gas. When a solid forms this is known as a precipitation reaction. If a gas is formed then this may be called a gas forming reaction. Acid-base reactions are a special class of ion exchange reactions and we will look at them separately.

The formation of a precipitate or a gas helps to make the reaction happen. We say that the reaction is driven by the formation of a precipitate or a gas. All chemical reactions will only take place if there is something to make them happen. For some reactions this happens easily and for others it is harder to make the reaction occur.

Definition 1: Ion exchange reaction

A type of reaction where the positive ions exchange their respective negative ions due to a driving force.

Interesting Fact:

Ion exchange reactions are used in ion exchange chromatography. Ion exchange chromatography is used to purify water and as a means of softening water. Often when chemists talk about ion exchange, they mean ion exchange chromatography.

We have already looked at precipitation reactions.

Gas forming reactions

These reactions are similar to precipitation reactions with the exception that instead of a precipitate forming, a gas is formed instead. An example of a gas forming reaction is sodium carbonate in hydrochloric acid. The balanced equation for this reaction is:

Acid-base reactions

Acid-base reactions take place between acids and bases. In general, the products will be water and a salt (i.e. an ionic compound). An example of this type of reaction is:


This is an special case of an ion exchange reaction since the sodium in the sodium hydroxide swaps places with the hydrogen in the hydrogen chloride forming sodium chloride. At the same time the hydroxide and the hydrogen combine to form water.

Redox reactions

Redox reactions involve the exchange of electrons. One ion loses electrons and becomes more positive, while the other ion gains electrons and becomes more negative. To decide if a redox reaction has occurred we look at the charge of the atoms, ions or molecules involved. If one of them has become more positive and the other one has become more negative then a redox reaction has occurred. For example, sodium metal is oxidised to form sodium oxide (and sometimes sodium peroxide as well). The balanced equation for this is:


In the above reaction sodium and oxygen are both neutral and so have no charge. In the products however, the sodium atom has a charge of +1 and the oxygen atom has a charge of −2. This tells us that the sodium has lost electrons and the oxygen has gained electrons. Since one species has become more positive and one more negative we can conclude that a redox reaction has occurred. We could also say that electrons have been transferred from one species to the other. (In this case the electrons were transferred from the sodium to the oxygen).

In the experiment above, you should have seen how each reaction type differs from the others. For example, a gas forming reaction leads to bubbles in the solution, a precipitation reaction leads to a precipitate forming, an acid-base reaction can be seen by adding a suitable indicator and a redox reaction can be seen by one metal disappearing and a deposit forming in the solution.

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