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9.3  Chemical Reactions




The launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery involves huge chemical reactions.   The reaction in the large red external tanks is between hydrogen and oxygen to produce enormous volumes of extremely hot water (steam).

In the solid booster rockets (white) on the sides of the external tank,  ammonium perchlorate (NH4ClO4) reacts with aluminium metal to produce white aluminium oxide and aluminium chloride, water vapour and nitrogen gas.

These reactions generate huge amounts of energy which expand the gases produced pushing them out the nozzles of the rockets.   The temperature of the gases produced is about 3,000oC.  As the gases are pushed down, the rocket is pushed up in accordance with Newton’s Third Law of Motion.   (Every force produces an equal and opposite force.)


Introduction

Chemical reactions don’t only happen during the launch of the Space Shuttle - they are are happening everywhere.

The discoveries of modern chemistry have lead to a revolution in our way of life.   Most of the advances of the machinery age, the technology age and the information revolution would not have been possible without the growth in our knowledge of chemical reactions.   An understanding of the chemistry of metals, acids, bases, salts and especially petrochemicals is essential for the manufacture of the materials needed for the new machines that have made these revolutions possible.

This topic builds on the understanding of elements, compounds and chemical reactions developed in the Year 8 topic “Compounds and Reactions.


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