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ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry Hypertext > Under Construction > Demonstrations > Additional Demos > Limiting Reagents

Limiting Reagents

Chemical Concepts Demonstrated

  • Limiting
  • Excess reagents


  • A round-bottom flask is filled with O2 and sealed with a rubber stopper holding a deflagrating spoon..
  • The deflagrating spoon is filled with red phosphorus, ignited, and plunged into the oxygen filled flask.
  • A magnesium strip is ignited by the burner.


After a few moments in the flask, the red phosphorus will stop burning but a small amount will still be present on the deflagrating spoon. The magnesium strip will burn brightly until there is none remaining in the tongs.

Explanations (including important equations)

P4 (s) + 5 O2 (g) --> 4 P4O10 (s)

According to the balanced equation, if the spoon holds 2.0 g of phosporus, it would take 2.6 g of O2 to consume all of the phosphorus in the reaction.  At 25°C and 1 atm, 2.6 g of Ois slightly less than 2 L in volume. The flask can only hold 1 L of O2.  There is not enough oxygen within the flask to burn all of the phosphorus present.  Therefore oxygen is the limiting reagent.  However, the magnesium strip is burned in an open room with a large excess of oxgyen.  In this case, the magnesium ribbon is the limiting reagent.



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Last modified
10:29, 2 Oct 2013



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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 1246120, 1525057, and 1413739.

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