Combustion And Its Types

What is Combustion?

Combustion refers to the process where a substance burns in the presence of Oxygen, giving off heat and light in the process.

You might have heard that certain substances are combustible whereas some are non-combustible. Combustible substances are simply those that undergo this process.

But isn’t Oxygen the most abundant substance on Earth? Doesn’t it combine with most of the elements? But surely, not all reactions can be said to be similar to this process. Even many people believe rusting of Iron is a similar process as rusting involves iron combining with oxygen giving off heat.

So what differentiates combustion from similar processes? It is the spontaneity with which substances react with Oxygen which defines a reaction.

Hydrocarbon + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water + Heat Energy

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Examples of Combustion

When substances react spontaneously with Oxygen giving off heat and light, the heat released fuels the process further making the reaction violent and rapid. If nothing is done to control this process, it takes the shape of a fire. It is this spontaneous and violent nature that distinguishes combustion from other similar processes taking place in the presence of Oxygen.

Some of the examples of combustion are

  1. Burning of sulfur in the air
  2. An explosion of hydrogen in air
  3. Burning of Wax candle
  4. Combustion of petrol in a car’s engine
  5. Burning of natural gas in a bunsen burner
  6. A bushfire means wood cellulose and other fuels burn in oxygen
Combustion - And Its Types

Combustion and its Types

Types of Combustion

Let us now study the types of such reactions.

  1. Complete combustion: When the reaction takes place in the presence of abundant Oxygen, the substances combine with Oxygen to their maximum extent. Such reactions have heat and light as a visible by-product.
  2. Incomplete combustion: These are defined as the reactions that occur in the absence of sufficient oxygen because of which substances are unable to burn completely. Such reactions leave Soot in the container due to this process along with the formation of Carbon monoxide which is an air pollutant.

Apart from classifications based on the availability of Oxygen, reactions are also categorized based on their spontaneity and rate of reaction. Reactions that proceed violently can either lead to fire or even explosion (which is also accompanied by loud noise). Formation of rust can also be categorized under slow combustion.

To know more about this process and its types, please reach out to our mentors at

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