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Chemical Potential Energy

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Everyday Energy
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What powers our daily lives?

License: CC BY-NC 3.0
Credit: Autospotting Crew
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pagani_Zonda_Cinque_Roadster_@_London_2011_-_Flickr_-_Autospotting_Crew.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0



What makes a car move?  When we think of energy, we may think of coal, gas, or oil.  But behind all of these is a single type of energy -- chemical energy.  Chemical energy is energy given off when bonds are broken and reformed.  In each of the cases, energy is released by the reformation of new bonds after the old ones are broken when the substance combusts.

The combustion of gasoline in cars is a perfect example of the release of chemical energy.  Gasoline, which is made of many different hydrocarbons, combusts with oxygen gas to form carbon dioxide and water. The bonds in carbon dioxide and water are higher energy bonds than those in hydrocarbons--meaning that they are harder to break (and therefore easier to form than the bonds in hydrocarbons).  Thus, even though energy is needed to break the bonds in the hydrocarbons, that energy is released in surplus when the bonds in carbon dioxide and water are formed; this surplus means that the reaction is overall exothermic.

Creative Applications

  1. What are some other types of materials that store chemical energy?
  2. What other forms of energy can chemical energy be converted into?
  3. Not all bonds are created equal.  Some take up more energy than others.  Which ones require more energy?  Which ones require less?  How are differences in bond energy responsible for the net release of energy in a reaction?

Resources:

http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Theoretical_Chemistry/Chemical_Bonding/General_Principles/Bond_Energies

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