Antoine Lavoisier is widely known as the "father of modern sdrta.netistry". He was one of the first to study sdrta.netical reactions in detail. As part of his studies on the composition of the atmosphere, Lavoisier reacted mercury with oxygen to form mercuric oxide; he was then able to show that the decomposition of mercuric oxide produced mercury and oxygen.

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Decomposition Reactions

A decomposition reaction is a reaction in which a compound breaks down into two or more simpler substances. The general form of a decomposition reaction is:

Most decomposition reactions require an input of energy in the form of heat, light, or electricity.

Binary compounds are compounds composed of just two elements. The simplest kind of decomposition reaction is when a binary compound decomposes into its elements. Mercury (II) oxide, a red solid, decomposes when heated to produce mercury and oxygen gas.

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<2 ceHgO left( s ight) ightarrow 2 ceHg left( l ight) + ceO_2 left( g ight)>

Figure (PageIndex1): Mercury (II) oxide is a red solid. When it is heated, it decomposes into mercury metal and oxygen gas. (CC BY-NC; CK-12)

A reaction is also considered to be a decomposition reaction even when one or more of the products are still compounds. A metal carbonate decomposes into a metal oxide and carbon dioxide gas. For example, calcium carbonate decomposes into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide:

Metal hydroxides decompose on heating to yield metal oxides and water. Sodium hydroxide decomposes to produce sodium oxide and water:

<2 ceNaOH left( s ight) ightarrow ceNa_2O left( s ight) + ceH_2O left( g ight)>

Some unstable acids decompose to produce nonmetal oxides and water. Carbonic acid decomposes easily at room temperature into carbon dioxide and water:

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