Magnesium Oxide Reaction

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Magnesium Oxide Reaction
Burning magnesium in air causes an unusual chemical reaction. (lab image by Svetlana Gajic from Fotolia.com)

When magnesium is burnt in air, it causes an unusual chemical reaction, leading to the formation of magnesium oxide. Magnesium gives off a lot of light during this reaction; in addition, the products of the reaction are visible at its conclusion. Science students can calculate the mass of oxygen used in the reaction by analysing its results.

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What Is Magnesium Oxide?

Magnesium oxide is a very useful mineral. Libraries often use it to preserve books, as it is an effective moisture absorber. It is also used in cement and as a heartburn medication. When magnesium is burnt in air, it creates magnesium oxide as well as magnesium nitrate.

Materials Needed to Burn Magnesium

To burn magnesium in air, you need a crucible, a magnesium ribbon, a pencil, a pipe-clay triangle, and a Bunsen burner.

Procedure for Creating Magnesium Oxide

Clean the magnesium ribbon with a piece of sandpaper and wrap it around a pencil. Put it in the crucible and put on the lid. Place the crucible in the pipe-clay triangle and move the lid so it is slightly ajar. Light the Bunsen burner and heat the crucible. The magnesium will glow, then turn black.

Safety Considerations

Always wear goggles while burning magnesium to protect your eyes. Never look directly at burning magnesium; the light can be so bright as to cause blindness. In addition, keep in mind that magnesium is highly flammable. Burn it only in the crucible. If a magnesium fire should start, never use a fire extinguisher; carbon dioxide and water both ignite magnesium further. Extinguish magnesium with sand or a dry-powder extinguisher.

Formula for Chemical Reaction

When magnesium is burnt in air, it creates magnesium oxide according to this formula:

2Mg + O2 ---> 2MgO

At the same time, magnesium nitrate is formed:

3Mg + N2 --> Mg3N2

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