Hydrocarbons are compounds formed by carbon and hydrogen atoms. They are used as fuels to produce energy in incomplete and complete combustion reactions. Incomplete combustion occurs when hydrocarbons react with a small amount of oxygen (O2), whilst complete combustion occurs when hydrocarbons react with large amounts of oxygen. Incomplete combustions produce water (H2O), carbon monoxide (CO) and/or soot (C). The CO and soot produced from incomplete combustion can have harmful consequences on humans and the environment. They not only damage human health, but also contribute to the current issue of global warming, ozone formation, and black carbon footprint. That being said, CO is vital to the human body in order to properly function.
Carbon Monoxide is a colourless and inodorous toxic gas produced through the incomplete combustion of different carbon-based fuels, such as in products and apparatuses motorised by internal combustion engines (Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers, n.d.), that have failed to convert carbon or carbon-based fuels into carbon dioxide (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2014). CO production can also occur naturally when volcanoes erupt, releasing the poisonous gas into the atmosphere. CO is used as an aid to engineer organic and inorganic chemical products (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2014), in fuel gas mixtures for heating in metal production, pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing, to reduce ores and make metal carbonyls, and to fabricate and renew catalysts. “High purity CO is also used for electronic and semiconductor applications” (The Linde Group, 2013). Figure 1 shows the general equation for the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons to produce carbon monoxide.
Figure 1- The general equation for the incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon to produce CO, where x represents the number of Carbons and y represents the number of hydrogens in the hydrocarbon (SparkNotes LLC, 2011)
As displayed through figure one, CO is produced via the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons, otherwise known as carbon-based fuels, with O2 gas. The products are the CO gas and H2O. This is in contrast to complete combustion, whose products are carbon dioxide (CO2), H2O gas or liquid, and energy. The general equation for complete combustion of hydrocarbons is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2- The general equation for the complete combustion of a hydrocarbon to produce CO2 and H2O, where x represents the number of Carbons and y represents the number of hydrogens in the hydrocarbon (SparkNotes LLC, 2011)
Shown in Figure 2, complete combustion is when the hydrocarbon has been successfully converted into CO2, which is in opposition to incomplete combustion.
The production of CO in incomplete combustions is very disadvantageous and harmful. In relation to humans, if CO is inhaled, it will be absorbed by red blood cells in the bloodstream, displacing O2, consequently disrupting it’s transportation throughout the body (Encyclopædia...