Chemical Energy Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Emily Lockhart

Emily has taught science and has a master's degree in education.

This lesson defines and gives many examples of chemical energy. Chemical energy is just one of many forms of energy and involves chemicals. Examples range from food to fuel.

Understanding Chemical Energy

After eating a big candy bar, you might notice that you have lots of energy. This is because the foods you eat contain chemical energy, or energy that is stored in chemicals and released when broken apart or rearranged.

These chemicals come in the form of atoms or molecules. Atoms are the smallest unit of any object in the universe that link together to form molecules. When bonds between molecules break apart, they rearrange themselves and release chemical energy. This process is known as a chemical reaction.

Breaking Molecules

When you chew on that delicious candy bar, your teeth and the muscles in your jaw break down food into the smallest pieces possible. Once inside your stomach and small intestine, acids and enzymes continue to break down food in order take out the highest energy-producing molecules. During digestion, your body harvests high-energy molecules and stores them until you need them.

When your body requires energy, bonds between molecules break down and rearrange the atoms into different molecules that release energy. Some of the energy will be released as heat or transferred and stored in new molecules to be used later. Some of the energy may even be used to power the muscles in your jaw so you can eat and harvest the chemical energy from more food.

During a chemical reaction, bonds break down and molecules rearrange and release energy

Stored Chemical Energy

Stored chemical energy means that there is a potential for a molecule to release energy and create a new product. For example, there is a lot of potential chemical energy stored in dry forests. If a small spark starts a forest fire, energy is produced in the form of heat and light. Ash is the new product that is left over after the chemical reaction is over.

Energy being released as heat and light

Examples of Chemical Energy

Explosives have a lot of stored chemical energy. A small spark can emit energy in the form of sound, earth movements and heat. The reaction occurs between the molecules in the explosives and the spark. The products of the reaction are the energy produced and the burnt explosives.

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