8 junio, 2024

20 Examples of Chemical Energy

Between the examples of chemical energy we can find batteries, biomass, oil, natural gas or coal. Chemical energy is the energy stored within chemicals, making it energy within atoms and molecules.

Most often, it is thought of as chemical bond energy, but the term also includes energy stored in the electronic arrangement of atoms and ions.

It is a form of potential energy that will not be observed until a reaction occurs. Usually, once chemical energy is released from a substance, it is transformed into a completely new substance.

List of examples of chemical energy

1- Burn wood

Wood has been a source of energy for thousands of years. Around a campfire, wood burns and as the wood burns, the chemical energy stored in the bonds of cellulose molecules in the wood releases heat and light.

2- Burn coal

During the Industrial Revolution, steam engines, like trains, used coal as a power source.

When coal burns, it releases heat that was used to evaporate water and produce kinetic energy with the movement of a piston.

Although steam engines are out of use today, coal is still used as a power source to generate electricity and heat.

3- Gasoline

Liquid fuels such as oil or gas are some of the most economically important forms of chemical energy for human civilization.

When an ignition source is provided, these fossil fuels instantly transform, releasing a tremendous amount of energy in the process.

That energy is harnessed in many ways, particularly for transportation purposes.

When you step on the gas in your car, the gas in the tank is converted into mechanical energy that propels the car forward, which then creates kinetic energy in the shape of the moving car.

4- Natural gas

When propane gas is burned for cooking in a grill, the chemical energy stored in the bonds of the propane molecules is broken and heat is released for cooking.

Similarly, natural gas, such as methane, is being used as an alternative to gasoline and diesel to power vehicles.

5- Redox potential

Chemical elements have the ability to donate or accept electrons. In doing so, they remain in a state of greater or lesser energy depending on the element.

When one element transfers an electron to another, the difference between these energy states is called the redox potential.

By convention, if the difference is positive then the reaction occurs spontaneously.

6- Batteries and voltaic cells

Oxidation potential is the foundation on which batteries work. When an element gives up an electron to another, it travels through a cable producing electrical energy which powers electronic devices such as cell phones, remote controls, toys, etc.

7- Bioelectric energy

There are some species, such as electric eels (electrophorus electricus) or deep-sea fish (melanocetus johnsonii) that are capable of generating bioelectricity externally.

In fact, bioelectricity is present in all living beings. Example of them are membrane potentials and the neuronal synapse.

8- Photosynthesis

During photosynthesis, energy from sunlight is converted into chemical energy that is stored in carbohydrate bonds.

Plants can then use the energy stored in the bonds of carbohydrate molecules for growth and repair.

9- Food

The food that people eat, whether from a plant or an animal, is a form of stored chemical energy that bodies use to move and function.

When food is cooked some of the energy is released from its chemical bonds as a result of the heat energy that is applied.

After people eat, the digestive process further transforms the chemical energy into a form their bodies can use.

10- Cellular respiration

During cellular respiration, our bodies take in glucose molecules and break the bonds that hold the molecules together.

When these bonds are broken, the chemical energy stored in these bonds is released and used to make ATP molecules, a usable form of energy for us.

11- Muscle movement and exercise

Muscle movement is an example of how the body uses chemical energy to transform it into mechanical or kinetic energy.

By using the energy contained in ATP, conformational changes occur in skeletal muscle proteins causing them to tense or relax, causing physical movement.

12- Chemical decomposition

When living things die, the energy contained in their chemical bonds must go somewhere. Bacteria and fungi use this energy in fermentation reactions.

13- Hydrogen and oxygen

Hydrogen is a light and flammable gas. When combined with oxygen it releases heat explosively.

This was the cause of the tragedy of the Hindenburg airship since these vehicles were inflated with hydrogen. Today this reaction is used to power rockets into space.

14- Explosions

Explosions are chemical reactions that happen very fast and release a lot of energy. When an explosive is fired, the chemical energy stored in the explosive changes and is transferred to sound energy, kinetic energy, and thermal energy.

These are observable in the sound, movement, and heat that are created.

15- Neutralization of acids

Neutralizing an acid with a base releases energy. This is because the reaction is exothermic.

16- Acid in water

Also when diluting an acid in water an exothermic reaction occurs. Great care must be taken when doing so to avoid splashing of the acid. The correct way to dilute an acid is always by adding it to water and never the other way around.

17- Cooling gel

Cold packs used in sports are examples of chemical energy. When the inner bag that fills with water is broken, it reacts with the ammonium nitrate granules and creates new chemical bonds during the reaction, absorbing energy from the environment.

As a result of chemical energy being stored in new bonds, the temperature of the cold pack decreases.

18- Gel thermal bags

These useful bags that are used to warm up cold hands or sore muscles have chemicals inside of them.

When you break the package to use it, the chemicals are activated. These chemicals mix together, and the chemical energy they release creates the heat that warms the package.

19- Aluminum in hydrochloric acid

In a chemical reaction in a laboratory: aluminum foil is added to the hydrochloric acid solution.

The test tube gets very hot because during the reaction many chemical bonds are broken releasing chemical energy causing the temperature of the solution to rise.

20- Nuclear energy

Despite not being an example of chemical energy, it is worth mentioning. When a nucleus fissions, it splits into several smaller fragments.

These fragments, or fission products, are roughly equal to half the original mass. Two or three neutrons are also emitted.

The sum of the masses of these fragments is less than the original mass. This “missing” mass (about 0.1% of the original mass) has been converted into energy according to Einstein’s equation.


AJ Software & Multimedia. (2015). Nuclear Fission: Basics. Retrieved from atomicarchive.com.
Barth, B. (SF). Examples of Chemical Energy. Recovered from greenliving.lovetoknow.com.
Chemical Energy Examples. (SF). Retrieved from softschools.com.

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