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What is a Chemical Property? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Danielle Reid

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

Can you guess what the terms toxicity and reactivity have in common? They both are chemical properties. Continue reading to learn what a chemical property is and discover the other relatives of toxicity and reactivity.

What Is a Chemical Property?

Have you ever seen rust? Maybe it was a shiny penny that turned to rust. Or, it could have been a metal bucket sitting in your backyard slowly rusting away. Whatever object you saw it on, rust is a classic example of a chemical property.

A chemical property is measured or observed following the chemical change to a substance--these properties result from a change with the chemical makeup or nature of a substance. How do we define a chemical change? Well, if we break a bond or form one, that's a chemical change. As shown in the image below, the creation of substances by forming bonds, or breakdown of substances by breaking bonds, shows us that a chemical change is taking place.

Examples of chemical change
chemical change

But how in the world can we spot chemical changes? Unfortunately, they are quite hard to identify. You have to ask yourself what chemical reaction is taking place to cause a change in that material. And if you can measure or observe that change, then bingo! That is your chemical property.

This all sounds good and dandy, but why are chemical properties important to us, as scientists? Well, to answer this question, we have to consider our earlier statement about the chemical makeup or nature of a substance. If we can identify one or more chemical properties, we can learn so much about the nature of that substance. This window to learning can be very useful to, for instance, the manufacturing industry, which can take this newfound knowledge and use it as a guide when producing a variety of products.

Examples of Chemical Properties

There are many different examples of chemical properties. Keep in mind when you look for a chemical property that you want to see evidence that a chemical change occurred. Let's look at a couple of examples:

Toxicity: This is a word you may have heard before. Toxicity simply refers to the ability of a material to damage living organisms. We often measure toxicity according how much damage or harm a chemical can cause. And so, this property is super helpful when trying to keep yourself safe from harm when working with chemicals.

Signage commonly used to indicate toxicity of chemicals
toxic

Reactivity: Chemicals can often be very hostile toward each other. Sometimes, a chemical fight can break out just by putting two opposing chemicals close to each other. In contrast, chemicals that are amicable will have no reaction or explosive fight. This concept relates to the chemical property of reactivity. Reactivity focuses on the ability for substances to chemically combine with one another. Certain substances are very reactive with one another. Others like to keep the peace by remaining un-reactive.

Sign used when a chemical is reactive with water
reactivity

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