Shrinithi Mahadevan


Decomposition Reaction Study Guide

A decomposition reaction is a chemical reaction where, with one reactant, you get two or more products. Read on to know about its different types.


We’ve studied chemical reactions where one or more than one reactant is involved, which yields products. One of the ground rules is that the left side is the reactants, while the right side is the products. However, chemical reactions can be further divided into various types, of which decomposition reactions are a major type.

Types of Chemical Reactions Source


If in a chemical reaction, two or more than two products are obtained with only one reactant, then the chemical reaction is known as a decomposition reaction. The general form of any decomposition reaction would be:

                         AB   →    A + B


Decomposition equations can also be termed as analysis reactions or even chemical breakdowns. The opposite of decomposition reaction would be synthesis, where more than one reactant combines to form a complex product. Decomposition reactions could be easily recognized by looking for single reactants with more than one product.


If you pay attention, decomposition reactions are happening every day in your life. One would be the electrolysis of water to form hydrogen and oxygen gas.

                   2 H₂0 →   2 H₂ + O₂

Another example would be the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to form water and oxygen.

                   2 H₂0₂ →   2 H₂O + O₂

Another decomposition reaction example would be heating green copper carbonate; it decomposes to form copper oxide as well as carbon dioxide.

                   CuCO₃ →   CuO + CO₂(g)

The compound would change from light green to black material.


There are three types of decomposition reactions, mainly:

  • Thermal Decomposition: A thermal decomposition reaction is activated by heat. This type of decomposition reaction is an endothermic one. A notable example of a thermal decomposition reaction would be the decomposition of calcium carbonate to form carbon dioxide and calcium oxide.

                          CaCO₃ →   CaO + CO₂
  • Electrolytic Decomposition: For the reactants to decompose into more than one product, electrical energy supplies this reaction with activation energy. Water electrolysis, as mentioned above, is a notable example.

  • Photolytic Decomposition: The reactant absorbs energy from photons to break the chemical bonds and then form products. An example of this kind of decomposition reaction would be the decomposition of ozone to form oxygen.

                            O₃ hv →   O₂ + O

If a catalyst aids any decomposition reaction, then they could be termed catalytic decomposition reaction.


Decomposition Reaction Source

  • A decomposition reaction is used to yield quicklime for cement.
  • It is used to weld using a thermite reaction.
  • To get relief from acid indigestion.
  • To identify any sample based on decomposition reaction and products obtained.
  • Another major application of this reaction would be to extract pure metals from their chlorides, oxides as well as ores.


  • A decomposition reaction is a chemical reaction where, with one reactant, you get two or more products.
  • An easy way to figure out a decomposition reaction is by looking at the number of products.
  • Decomposition reactions are of three types- thermal decomposition, photolytic decomposition, electrolytic decomposition.


1. What is the decomposition of copper carbonate?

It is a thermal decomposition reaction where heating green copper carbonate, it decomposes to form copper oxide as well as carbon dioxide.

2. What is the balanced equation for copper carbonate?

The balanced equation for copper carbonate would be

CuCO₃ → CuO + CO₂(g)

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  1. Decomposition Reaction: https://www.aakash.ac.in/important-concepts/chemistry/decomposition-reaction.Accessed 10th March 2022.
  2. Definition of Decomposition Reaction: https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-decomposition-reaction-604995.Accessed 10th March 2022.
  3. What is Decomposition Reaction? https://sciencenotes.org/what-is-a-decomposition-reaction-definition-and-examples/.Accessed 10th March 2022.
  4. What happens when copper carbonate is heated? https://byjus.com/questions/what-happens-when-copper-carbonate-is-heated-mention-the-type-of-reaction/#:~:text=When%20green%20copper%20carbonate%7BCuCO3,gas%20is%20released%20while%20heating.Accessed 10th March 2022.