Chemistry

Is heating a copper wire a physical or chemical change? What process or reaction it undergoes?

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  1. As long as the heating source is not too hot, heating a piece of Cu metal is a physical change. If a hotter source is used (a blow torch or something like that), the metal will react with oxygen of the air to form either Cu2O or CuO. If that reaction takes place you have formed new products and that will be a chemical change.

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    DrBob222
  2. Ok, if it is heated with a bunsen burner would it be a physical or chemical change, iam not sure

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  3. Just gets hot, unlikely to oxidize with a Bunsen burner :)

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  4. If you heat it long enough with a Bunsen burner until the bright shiny Cu metal turns to a black color you have formed some CuO on the outside of the metal. That part is a chemical change. Just heating the metal with a flame for a minute or two will get it hotter but it will not form the black oxide in which case you have a physical change. If you wonder if I'm hedging my bets the answer is yes because many consider this a controversial question BECAUSE it really depends upon how you define heating. Heating it gently is a physical change. Heating it with gusto and for an extended period of time at an elevated temperature allows it to react with oxygen and form black CuO. Anytime you have new products a chemical change has taken place. Anytime you ask this question in a crowd of chemists you will get some that say that heating Cu metal is a physical change and some will say it is a chemical change and it all depends upon how each chemist is defining the heating process. In general, heating something is a physical change; i.e., heating a piece of glass, heating water, heating ice, heating air, etc. Heating metals with high reactivity, such as Mg, Na, Li, K, Cs, etc are easy because soon after they are exposed to a burner they burst into flame and form the oxide. Clearly that is a chemical change and you can see it before your very eyes. It's when you heat a metal that isn't very reactive with oxygen, such as Cu, Al, Cr, etc that we get into this quandary of qualifying our answer. Sorry this is so long and I really don't want to confuse you but I don't know how your prof feels about the problem. When I taught I never asked a question like this because I thought it was an unfair question. One final note---many science members (chemists, physics profs, etc) will say there is no doubt about it and call it a physical change. Their argument is that the amount of black CuO formed on the SURFACE of the metal is such a small fraction of the piece of metal as a whole that the MAJOR process is a physical change and the SLIGHT amount of oxidation that takes place isn't worth muddling the answer. Hope this helps

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    DrBob222
  5. Anonymous just proved my point.

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    DrBob222
  6. Wow thank you anon and DrBob! That is a really precise explanation

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  7. One more item. I believe the majority of science people will consider it a physical change because the are willing to ignore the small fraction of the surface formation of the oxide. It's just very picky people like me that are bothered by that fraction on the surface and I can't let it go without an explanation.

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    DrBob222
  8. wow good job DrBob222

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