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Chemical Reaction vs. Physical Reaction: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A Chemical Reaction involves new substances forming, while a Physical Reaction involves a change in form, not composition.
Chemical Reaction vs. Physical Reaction

Key Differences

Chemical Reactions result in the formation of new chemical substances, involving changes at the molecular level. Physical Reactions, on the other hand, are changes that do not alter the chemical nature of substances; they only change the physical appearance or state.
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Dec 20, 2023
In Chemical Reactions, bonds between atoms are broken and new ones are formed, signifying a chemical change. Conversely, Physical Reactions involve changes like phase transition or shape alteration, without any alteration in molecular composition.
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Energy changes in Chemical Reactions often involve release or absorption of heat or light, indicative of a chemical process. Physical Reactions, however, typically involve more subtle energy changes, primarily related to physical state changes like melting or boiling.
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A hallmark of Chemical Reactions is the irreversibility of the change in many cases, as new substances are formed. In contrast, most Physical Reactions are reversible, like water freezing and melting, without any new substances being created.
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Chemical Reactions can be identified by signs like color change, gas formation, or precipitate formation. Physical Reactions, in contrast, don’t exhibit such signs but might involve changes like size, shape, or phase without altering the substance’s identity.
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Comparison Chart

Nature of Change

Alters molecular composition
Does not alter molecular composition
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Energy Involvement

Involves energy changes like heat/light
Involves less dramatic energy changes
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Reversibility

Often irreversible
Usually reversible
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Observable Signs

Indicators like color change, gas release
Changes in size, shape, or state
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Example

Rusting of iron
Melting of ice
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Chemical Reaction and Physical Reaction Definitions

Chemical Reaction

A process where reactants yield products with different properties.
The reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to form water is a classic chemical reaction.
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Physical Reaction

A reaction involving a change in physical properties without a chemical change.
Crushing a can changes its shape, a physical reaction without altering the metal's chemical structure.
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Chemical Reaction

A change resulting in the formation of new chemical substances.
Rust forming on iron is a chemical reaction involving iron and oxygen.
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Physical Reaction

A reaction where the substance undergoes a physical change.
Shredding paper is a physical reaction; the paper's composition remains the same.
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Chemical Reaction

A transformation leading to the rearrangement of atoms.
Burning wood in a fireplace is a chemical reaction that releases heat and light.
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Physical Reaction

A reversible change in the appearance or phase of a material.
Dissolving salt in water is a physical reaction since it can be reversed by evaporation.
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Chemical Reaction

A process where substances interact to form new compounds.
Combining vinegar and baking soda creates a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide.
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Physical Reaction

A process that involves changes in state like solid to liquid or liquid to gas.
Freezing water to make ice cubes is a physical reaction.
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Chemical Reaction

A reaction involving the breaking and forming of chemical bonds.
Photosynthesis in plants is a chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide and water into glucose.
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Physical Reaction

A change that alters the form or state of a substance but not its chemical composition.
Boiling water is a physical reaction where liquid turns into vapor.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is an example of a physical reaction?

An example is the melting of ice into water, a reversible physical change.
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Do chemical reactions always release energy?

Not always. Chemical reactions can either release (exothermic) or absorb (endothermic) energy.
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Are all chemical reactions easily reversible?

No, many chemical reactions are irreversible, resulting in permanent changes.
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What defines a chemical reaction?

A chemical reaction involves the transformation of substances into new products with different chemical properties.
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What are signs of a chemical reaction?

Signs include color change, gas formation, temperature change, or precipitate formation.
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Is freezing a chemical or physical reaction?

Freezing is a physical reaction as it involves a state change without altering chemical composition.
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Can a physical reaction change the chemical structure of a substance?

No, a physical reaction changes the form or state of a substance without altering its chemical structure.
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What happens to atoms during a chemical reaction?

In a chemical reaction, atoms are rearranged to form new substances.
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Can a physical reaction alter the molecular structure?

No, physical reactions do not alter the molecular structure of substances.
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Is tearing paper a chemical reaction?

No, tearing paper is a physical reaction as it changes the shape but not the chemical composition of the paper.
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Are all physical reactions reversible?

Many, but not all, physical reactions are reversible.
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Can a chemical reaction be physically observed?

Yes, physical signs like color change or gas production can indicate a chemical reaction.
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Is boiling an example of a chemical reaction?

No, boiling is a physical reaction involving a change from liquid to gas.
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Can a physical reaction occur without energy change?

Most physical reactions involve some energy change, often less intense than in chemical reactions.
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Is dissolving sugar in water a chemical reaction?

No, it's a physical reaction as it doesn't produce new substances.
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Does a chemical reaction always result in a color change?

Not always, but color change can be an indicator of a chemical reaction.
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How is energy involved in a chemical reaction?

Energy is either absorbed or released during the breaking and forming of chemical bonds in a chemical reaction.
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What is an example of an irreversible chemical reaction?

Burning paper is irreversible as it results in new substances like ash and gases.
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Is stretching rubber a chemical reaction?

No, stretching rubber is a physical reaction as it changes shape but not its chemical composition.
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Do physical reactions form new substances?

No, physical reactions only change the physical form or state of a substance.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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