Law of Chemical Combinations

There was tremendous progress in Chemical Sciences after 18th century. It arose out of an interest in the nature of heat and the way things burn. Major progress was made through the careful use of chemical balance to determine the change in mass that occurs in chemical reactions.

The great French Chemist Antoine Lavoisier used the balance to study chemical reactions. He heated mercury in a sealed flask that contained air. After several days, a red substance mercury (II) oxide was produced. The gas remaining in the flask was reduced in mass. The remaining gas was neither able to support combustion nor life. The remaining gas in the flask was identified as nitrogen. The gas which combined with mercury was oxygen.

Further he carefully performed the experiment by taking a weighed quantity of mercury (II) oxide. After strong heating, he found that mercury (II) oxide, red in colour, was decomposed into mercury and oxygen. He weighed both mercury and oxygen and found that their combined mass was equal to that of the mercury (II) oxide taken.

Lavoisier finally came to the conclusion that in every chemical reaction, total masses of all the reactants is equal to the masses of all the products. This law is known as the law of conservation of mass.

There was rapid progress in science after chemists began accurate determination of masses of reactants and products. French chemist Claude Berthollet and Joseph Proust worked on the ratio (by mass) of two elements which combine to form a compound. Through a careful work, Proust demonstrated the fundamental law of definite or constant proportions in 1808. In a given chemical compound, the proportions by mass of the elements that compose it are fixed, independent of the origin of the compound or its mode of preparation.

For example, in pure water, the ratio of mass of hydrogen to the mass of oxygen is always 1:8 irrespective of the source of water. In other words, pure water contains 11.11% of hydrogen and 88.89% of oxygen by mass whether water is obtained from well, river or from a pond. Thus, if 9.0 g of water are decomposed, 1.0 g of hydrogen and 8.0 g of oxygen are always obtained. Furthermore, if 3.0 g of hydrogen are mixed with 8.0 g of oxygen and the mixture is ignited, 9.0 g of water are formed and 2.0 g of hydrogen remains unreacted.

Similarly sodium chloride contains 60.66% of chlorine and 39.34% of sodium by mass whether we obtained it from salt mines or by crytallising it from water of ocean or inland salt seas or synthesizing it from its elements sodium and chlorine.

1. Law of Conservation of Mass

In every chemical reaction, total masses of all the reactants is equal to the masses of all the products.

2. Law of Constant Proportions

According to law of constant proportions, a sample of a pure substance always consists of the same elements combined in the same proportion by mass.

3. Law of Multiple Proportions

When an element combines with another element and forms more than one compound, then different masses of the one element that combine with the fixed mass of another element are in the ratio of simple whole number or integer. This is the law of multiple proportions.