Silver Oxide: Formula, Decomposition & Formation

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  • 0:03 Silver Oxide Uses
  • 0:32 Silver Oxide Formula
  • 1:25 Silver Oxide Formation
  • 2:21 Silver Oxide Decomposition
  • 4:02 Silver Oxide Other Uses
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education. He has taught high school chemistry and physics for 14 years.

Expert Contributor
Will Welch

Will has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wyoming and has experience in a broad selection of chemical disciplines and college-level teaching.

Silver chemically bonded with oxygen yields silver oxide. In this lesson, we'll investigate silver oxide's formula, how it can be formed, and possible decomposition.

Silver Oxide Uses

Would you have ever guessed that one of the components of some concretes is silver oxide? This interesting molecule is also impregnated in fabrics used in surgery because it has properties that resist the growth of microbes. Silver oxide was also used in batteries in the Apollo spacecraft. Currently, it serves another function, allowing humans to live in environments with no exposure to Earth's atmosphere. Let's learn some details about silver oxide.

Silver Oxide Formula

Silver oxide is an ionic compound containing two silver ions and one oxygen ion. But, how does it form? Silver typically loses one electron to form a positively charged ion, Ag+1. Oxygen gains two electrons and becomes a negatively charged ion, O-2. These ions stick together like glue because they're oppositely charged. This makes silver oxide an ionic compound. The formula for silver oxide is Ag2 O. The diagram below shows the electron transfer between silver and oxygen. As you can see, one silver atom gives up an electron resulting in a +1 ion. Each oxygen atom requires two electrons to be stable. This is why two silver atoms are required to bond to oxygen.


Silver Oxide Formation

Let's discuss two ways to create silver oxide. One method happens naturally when elemental silver is in the presence of the oxygen in air. This has to happen at temperatures less than 195° C:

4Ag (s) + O2 (g) → 2Ag2 O (s)

The (s) represents solid, and the (g) represents gas.

The second way to produce silver oxide is to react silver nitrate with the strong base sodium hydroxide:

2AgNO3 (aq) + 2NaOH (aq) → Ag2 O (s) + 2NaNO3 (aq) + H2 O (l)

The (aq) represents an aqueous solution, and the (l) represents liquid. In this reaction, the silver oxide is a precipitate, or solid.

Silver Oxide Decomposition

The beauty of chemistry is that right after creating silver oxide, you can reverse the reaction. In the previous section we saw that silver oxide is created naturally when elemental silver is exposed to oxygen in the air at temperatures less than 195° C. The question is: Does heating silver oxide at temperatures higher than 195° C mean the silver oxide will decompose into elemental silver and oxygen? The answer is yes!

2Ag2 O + heat → 4Ag (s) + O2 (g)

This is the exact reverse of the composition reaction.

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Additional Activities

Chemical Equations with Metal Oxides

The equations presented in the lesson are typical of transition metals. Have students take the same concept and apply it to other metals.

Reactions with Elemental Oxygen

  1. Can you think of any common metal oxides that you may have heard of in everyday life?
  2. Consider the oxidation of iron metal into iron(III) oxide. Using the reaction of silver and oxygen as a guide, write a balanced chemical equation for this.

Metal Anhydrides

Metal oxides are also called metal anhydrides, and the reason for this is presented in the second equation of the lesson.

  1. What type of chemical is NaOH?
  2. "Anhydride" means removal of water. How does the second equation in this lesson exemplify this idea? (Hint: use the OH- ion.)
  3. Write an equation for the formation of magnesium oxide using the same type of reaction. Keep in mind that Mg makes ions with a +2 charge.


Reactions with Elemental Oxygen

  1. Common metal oxides are iron oxide (rust), aluminum and titanium oxides (paint, makeup, sunscreen).
  2. The iron in the product is iron(III), so it has to have a charge of +3, and the oxide ion has a charge of -2. The least common multiple is 6, so there will be 2 irons and 3 oxygens in the final formula of iron oxide. 4Fe + 3O2 --> 2(Fe2O3)

Metal Anhydrides

  1. NaOH is a base. OH-, hydroxide ion, is the quintessential base.
  2. In the second equation, water appears as a product. This is because initially the silver pairs with the hydroxide ion, but then two silver hydroxide ions react to form silver oxide and water. It is called an anhydride because the intermediate, silver hydroxide, has "lost a water" to become silver oxide.
  3. Mg(NO3)2 + 2NaOH --> MgO +2(NaNO3)+H2O

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