How Chemical Reactions Form New Products

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  • 0:02 What is a Chemical Reaction?
  • 1:11 Forming New Products
  • 1:55 New Properties
  • 3:16 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.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain what a chemical reaction is and how the products can have completely different properties to the reactants. A short quiz will follow.

What Is a Chemical Reaction?

A chemical reaction is a process where the arrangement of atoms, the way they are connected together, is changed. In a physical process, atoms stay where they are. For example, solid ice can change into liquid water, but both are still H2O - they still contain molecules with two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. In a chemical process, however, the way the atoms are bonded changes, forming completely new substances.

A chemical reaction can be described using a chemical equation. For example, here is one for combustion - the burning of a substance in oxygen:

Combustion Reaction

Combustion is actually a reaction between the thing you're burning and the oxygen in the air.

On the left side of the equation are the reactants, the materials you are reacting with each other, and on the right side of the equation are the products, the new substances that result from the reaction. The right and left sides of the equation are separated with an arrow, showing which direction the reaction moves. In this reaction, a lot of heat is also produced, but this isn't shown through the equation.

Forming New Products

A chemical reaction forms new products, but it's important to realize that the products are just rearrangements of the same atoms. If we go back to this combustion reaction, this is what we start with (on the left in the above image), and if we rearrange these atoms, we form the products, which look like this (on the right on the above image).

You could do the same thing with a photosynthesis reaction. Photosynthesis is where plants take light energy, carbon dioxide and water, and change them into energy in the form of sugar (glucose to be exact). So, if we take the reactants and rearrange the atoms a bit, we get the products. If the chemical reaction equation is fully complete, you should be able to do this with any chemical reaction.

New Properties

The products you get out of a chemical reaction are completely new substances, and they can have completely new properties. While it's possible sometimes that the properties may be similar, they don't have to be. The rearrangement of atoms is more than enough to create completely different materials.

To illustrate how much the arrangement of atoms affects the properties of a substance, let's look at table salt. Every day, millions of people around the world sprinkle salt onto their food. It's completely safe and makes food taste better to most people. But, what is salt? Salt is sodium chloride. It contains molecules where a sodium atom, Na, is bonded to a chlorine atom, Cl. We write it out as NaCl. We know the properties of salt from everyday life, but what are the properties of sodium and chlorine?

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