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Decomposition Reactions

Chemical reaction where one reactant breaks down into two or more products.

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Oreos: Cookies n' Cream

How do decomposition reactions apply to our lives?

Everyone loves oreos, yet we all eat them quite differently. Some people eat them in their entirety, like sandwiches. Others dunk them in milk or coffee. But many people remove the top cookie, scrape the mouth-watering cream into their mouths, and devour the “buns” of the cookie sandwich. In this case, the oreo begins as a single entity and ends up as two or more smaller pieces, like in a decomposition reaction.

Credit: GummyPiglet
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gummypiglet/5240022800/in/photolist-8Z3udG-9jc8GJ-ciGdzh-8EiEzm-b3vARn-8yERAg-bpu45P-8aDTWr-86rzBg-aiP7UF-9vEBjd-bkeWxw-bgwX2a-87TYVM-8ccMSz-buLaKJ-arRSr7-8cuHwu-ahVBrZ-ahVBn4-8tpHhQ-9VxFmy-ehx3X9-ehx3WQ-ehx3WW-ahVQGi-bpYzkK-7C5c6Q-9nrhfo-7CpRzw-cWiydQ-9ULZF3-aNSLL6-cwi3TN-9qQUnn-9qQGsc-9SPTgH-bDDgkn-cBfLJ3-9EJ4uk-cbCkX5-8V3UKF-cBRnXj-du48XN-ehx3Xm-8MFyMT-bp5L8s-aq7MKG-8qpNuR-8qpNxe-8qsVyC/lightbox/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0


This "decomposition reaction" appears to be fun and trivial, but our society and industry involve many decomposition reactions of great importance. Dead plants and other organic material decompose to balance the carbon and oxygen in our atmosphere. Wood in particular is broken down into fuel and energy. When vacuum cleaners are used, the motors' sparking brushes produce ozone which eventually decomposes to form oxygen. Quicklime, or calcium oxide (CaO), is created by a cycle of decomposition reactions, dissolving in water to form calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2), or slaked lime, and reacting with acids to form salt and water. As you can see, there is a plethora of decomposition reactions which take place in everyday life, so it benefits us to understand them.

Creative Applications

  1. How does splitting an oreo and eating each part separately represent a decomposition reaction?
  2. How do you like to eat oreos? Does the manner in which you eat them symbolize a decomposition reaction? If not, explore the different types of reactions to find the reaction compatible with your oreo eating habits. (use the first resource link if necessary)
  3. What are other examples of decomposition reactions? (use the second resource link if necessary)


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