Of all the forms of energy that humanity has developed in the past few hundred years of mass production, chemical energy is by far the most commonly used. Whether in the batteries that power all of our handheld devices and their chemical reactions, or in the millions of uses weve developed for fossil fuels and their numerous chemical reactions, chemical energy is a staple of our daily lives. Coal is burned for energy throughout the world, gasoline combusts every day in our vehicles, and natural gasses are burned for heating energy every night.
Its on a very basic level that chemical energy is stored. A chemical compound is composed of very simple collections of atoms, bound together. When the bond between these atoms loosens, a chemical reaction takes place and new combinations are created. Very simple reactions, such as the oxidation of metals occurs almost constantly.
However, when a chemical reaction occurs that is exothermic, in which energy is actually released and the chemical compound is reduced, it is possible to harvest that energy for our everyday use. The very simple processes that we observe every day such as the warming of the ground when the sun beats down on it are the same basic concepts that apply to these chemical reactions. For humanity to fully harness this chemical energy though, its necessary to understand just what happens and how we can make it happen.
Chemical energy is stored in every bond between atoms in a molecule. If a molecule is broken down and reformed into new molecules, energy is released. This kind of reaction is present in every chemical compound we see; however it is the yield of energy that differs. Food, for example, is chemically broken down by our bodies and taken apart to obtain energy within our bodies. After the energy is removed from the food, the new molecules are separated, energy absorbed for our everyday use, and waste removed.
Another example of a simple chemical reaction used to obtain energy, is in the photosynthetic process a plant undertakes to garner energy from the sun. So much energy is present in the light of the sun that a plant is able to take it and apply to existing molecules in its own structure and create new ones with the presence of carbon dioxide and water.
Chemical energy is the easiest and most efficient energy source to store and utilize, if only because it is so readily available, found in nearly everything we use. Chemical energy, as used by our bodies has been the source of life for billions of years and the developments in chemical energy technology has led to long lasting rechargeable batteries and hopefully in renewable energy resources in the future.
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Amazing chemical reactions!