Reactivity: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is Chemical Reactivity?
  • 1:12 The Periodic Table &…
  • 2:04 Chemical Reactivity in Action
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Bam! Boom! Sizzle! Those are just a select few noises you may hear when chemicals react with each other. To explore the fantastic chemistry of reactivity and learn about real life examples, continue reading.

What Is Chemical Reactivity?

Did you know that the periodic table was built in such a way that it would help people point out elements known to be reactive? Now, who said chemists aren't creative? Before we dive into this neat fact, let me explain what chemical reactivity means.

By definition, chemical reactivity occurs when substances change chemically. What is most often produced from this type of change is something in the form of energy, such as heat and combustion. A simple way of thinking about reactivity is to imagine mixing two or more things together and watching what happens when they hang out or mingle with each other. Will they blow up in each other's presence? Make their environment cold? Give off a stinky smell? Or be toxic to our health?

As you might gather from these questions, chemical reactivity can be very finicky. One minute chemical substances are relaxing in solution, the next they are arguing and creating explosions. They can be highly reactivity. They can proceed at a super sonic speed when interacting or move like molasses to interact at a very slow speed. Let's see how we can predict some of these attitudes of chemical substances before they react with one another.

The Periodic Table & Reactivity

A very important point to consider is that the properties of chemicals interacting with each other play a very huge role in reactivity. When I refer to property, think about the personality of that chemical substance, in this case, an element. For some elements, they are very noble at heart and thus are called noble gasses. Other elements, like nonmetals, are electron greedy and tend to react with anything they encounter.

The beauty of this is that we can use a periodic table to find the properties of elements and predict how one element will behave before it interacts with another element. The takeaway message here is that by doing this, you will know ahead of time whether or not two or more substances hanging with each other will eventually fight to the point of causing an explosion or co-exist happily causing little to no reactivity.

Chemical Reactivity in Action

In our environment, reactivity can sometimes prove to be hazardous. To help ensure people and animals are protected from the nasty by-products after chemical reactivity, there are several things that can be done.

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