What Is Chemical Energy? Examples, Definition, and Types

What is chemical energy? Examples, definition, and types

Chemical energy is the potential of a chemical substance to cope with a chemical reaction. Forming or breaking chemical bonds involves energy. This energy can be absorbed or evolved from a chemical system.

Depending on the nature of chemical reactions, they can either release energy or absorb it.

Examples of Chemical Energy

Here are a few examples of chemical energy:

  • Nuclear energy to generate electrical power: The reactor generates heat energy during nuclear fission or fusion reactions.

  • The combustion reaction of fuel releases thermal energy through chemical reactions. For instance, during the combustion of natural gas, it is converted mainly into carbon dioxide, producing heat.

  • Digestion by a living organism: Food is converted into chemical energy for the body through specific reactions in the stomach.

  • Photosynthesis: It is the process that transforms solar energy into chemical energy.

Here you can find some examples of chemical equations.

What Is the Internal Energy of a Chemical Reaction?

The internal energy of a chemical reaction is the energy released or absorbed due to the reaction between the atoms. This energy is equal to the difference between the amount of energy of the products and the reactants.

Chemical energy exchanges occur in the course of transformations that take place at the level of molecules.

We say that a chemical reaction is an acid-base reaction between a base and an acid.

Types of Chemical Reactions

There are six types of reactions:

  • Decomposition: it happens when we convert a complex substance into another simpler substance. For instance, in nuclear fission reactions, we get the energy stored in the bonds of uranium atoms.

  • Simple displacement reaction or single replacement reaction: occurs when an atom of one substance is transferred to another.

  • Double displacement reaction: the atoms of two substances are exchanged with each other.

  • Combustion: raising the temperature of some fuel (for example, coal) can trigger chemical reactions that end by release heat.

  • Synthesis reaction: it is the energy given off when a more complex substance is formed from two simple substances—for example, the formation of sodium chloride.

What Are the Types of Energy That Make Up Chemical Energy?

Chemical energy is mainly the sum of:

What Is Potential Chemical Energy?

Potential chemical energy is a form of potential energy related to the structural array of atoms or molecules. It can be the result of chemical bonds between molecules. 

The potential chemical energy depends on the position of the particles that make up a substance. The strength of chemical bonds is associated with the distance between the atoms. The strongest bonds are those with the closest chemical elements involved.

The similar term chemical potential is used to indicate the potential for a substance to undergo a configuration change.

What Is Nuclear Chemistry?

Nuclear chemistry is a branch of chemistry that deals with the study of the following chemical aspects:

  • Nuclear properties (such as the structure of the atomic nucleus, atomic reactions, and radioactive decay)

  • Properties of the elements of the end of the periodic system (for which the detection of nuclear radiation is essential)

  • Macroscopic phenomena involving nuclear processes.

  • Analysis techniques based on nuclear phenomena in the study of scientific problems in various scientific or technical fields.


    Published: December 11, 2015
    Last review: August 26, 2021