What is a chemical reaction?

A chemical reaction is material changing from a beginning mass to a resulting substance. The hallmark of a chemical reaction is that new material or materials are made, along with the disappearance of the mass that changed to make the new. This does not mean that new elements have been made. In order to make new elements, the nuclear contents must change. There are magnitudes of difference in the amounts of energy in ordinary chemical reactions compared to nuclear reactions. The energy of rearrangement of the nuclei of atoms to change to new elements is enormous compared to the smaller energies of chemical changes. The alchemists, in their efforts to change less expensive metals to gold, did not have the fundamental understanding of what they were attempting to do to appreciate the difference.

A chemical equation is a way to describe what goes on in a chemical reaction, the actual change in a material. Chemical equations are written with the symbols of materials to include elements, ionic or covalent compounds, aqueous solutions, ions, or particles. There is an arrow pointing to the right that indicates the action of the reaction. The materials to the left of the arrow are the reactants, or materials that are going to react. The materials to the right of the arrow are the products, or materials that have been produced by the reaction. The Law of Conservation of Mass states that in a chemical reaction no mass is lost or gained. The Law of Conservation of Mass applies to individual types of atom. One could say that for any element, there is no loss or gain of that element in a chemical reaction. There are such things as reversible reactions, reactions in which the products reassemble to become the original products. Reversible reactions are symbolized in chemical equations by a double-headed arrow, but the standard remains to call the materials on the left the reactants and the materials on the right the products.

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