Chemical Reactions in Everyday Life

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  • 0:02 What Is a Chemical Reaction?
  • 1:07 Everyday Chemical Reactions
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

What is a chemical reaction? Learn about some of the many chemical reactions that affect our everyday lives and see how our entire existence is only possible because of them.

What is a Chemical Reaction?

When people think of chemicals, they might think of toxic things like bleach, acid, drain cleaner. These are definitely chemicals, but the truth is that everything is made up of chemicals. A chemical is just a substance that has a particular chemical composition. In other words, something that is made up of atoms that are arranged in a certain way.

So if that's a chemical, what is a chemical reaction? A chemical reaction, also called a chemical change, happens when a chemical, or reactant, changes into a new substance, or product. The atoms actually rearrange to form an entirely new substance.

This happens more than you might think. Chemical reactions are happening inside your body every moment of every day. For example, our bodies use the food we eat as chemical energy, changing it into the molecules our bodies need to live through a process called digestion. Just as chemical reactions are a big part of how the human body works, they are also part of how everything outside of our bodies works.

Everyday Chemical Reactions

Let's take a look at some everyday chemical reactions. One of the more obvious chemical reactions is the burning of fuels. Each day as you drive to work or school, you're burning gas. When you sit around a campfire, you're burning wood. And when you cook using a gas stove, you're burning natural gas. All of these are examples of a type of chemical reaction called combustion, which occurs when oxygen and other substances combine, producing heat and oftentimes light.

Not all chemical reactions happen as quickly and violently as combustion does. Some take a long time to occur. An example of this is rusting, which happens when iron turns a red or brown color due to exposure to air and water. Rusting results from an oxidation reaction as iron and oxygen combine to form iron oxide, which has a red or brown color.

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