What Are Chemical Properties? - Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:00 Chemical Properties
  • 1:05 Examples of Chemical…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Characterizing substances by their properties is essential in identifying them. In this lesson, you'll learn how chemical properties give us clues about the nature of a substance by looking at some common examples.

Chemical Properties

Have you ever had to guess the identity of a substance? Besides smelling, touching and looking at the physical appearance of a substance, there are other ways to know for sure what that substance is. This is where chemical properties come in.

A chemical property is a property of a substance that is observed when a substance undergoes a chemical change. A chemical change is a type of change that also changes the identity of a substance due to breakage and formation of new chemical bonds.

This can be seen here, where two substances, A and B, form and break bonds with each other and two other substances, shown as C and D.

Chemical Change: Breakage and Formation of Bonds

Chemical changes and the chemical properties they can produce are directly linked to the physical properties of a substance. Some common physical properties are odor, density, melting point and boiling point, while some common chemical properties are heat of combustion, enthalpy of formation, toxicity, and flammability, each of which will be covered in this lesson.

Examples of Chemical Properties

Investigating and observing different substances on Earth is essential to utilizing substances efficiently and safely. Imagine a movie where scientists and researchers are called in when a foreign substance is discovered - the substance is treated with caution, and they perform different tests on it to know exactly what it is and what it can do.

Part of this process will be discovering the chemical properties of the substance. Some of the more common chemical properties include:

Heat of Combustion

A combustion reaction involves oxygen and releases energy as heat. The heat that is released is what we refer to as the heat of combustion. When undergoing a combustion reaction with oxygen, different materials have different heats of combustion associated with them.

When an organic substance undergoes a combustion reaction with oxygen, it produces carbon dioxide, water and, thus, emits heat. A common example of the combustion of methane, CH4, with oxygen, is seen here:

Combustion of Methane

Not only organic compounds undergo combustion. Metals also undergo combustion, such as magnesium metal, which reacts with oxygen to produce magnesium oxide and is written out like this:

Combustion of Magnesium

Enthalpy of Formation

When a substance is formed from standard elements, heat is either released or absorbed. The heat associated with this is what we call the standard enthalpy of formation. This is an important characteristic because it tells us about the stability of the compound, as well as its reactivity with other compounds. Each element, in its standard form, is under the following conditions: at a pressure of 1 atmosphere and a temperature of 298.15 K. This table shows some standard enthalpies of a few different compounds.

Enthalpy of Formation Table

Toxicity

Toxicity is a very important chemical property because it tells us about the harm a substance can bring to other organisms. Some common toxic substances are mercury and various types of acids. This also includes household products, such as those containing ammonia.

In a chemistry lab, different bottles of chemicals that are highly toxic have the symbol of a skull and crossbones to it:

Toxicity Symbol

By determining the toxicity of a substance, we can know if it is a chemical toxicant (those that can poison you), a biological toxicant (those that can bring you disease), or a physical toxicant (those that can incur damage to your body by being inhaled) and take the appropriate steps to use and store it safely.

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