Reaction, Chemical (Encyclopedia of Science)
When a chemical reaction occurs, at least one product is formed that is different from the substances present before the change occurred. As an example, it is possible to pass an electric current through a sample of water and obtain a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen gases. That change is a chemical reaction because neither oxygen nor hydrogen were present as elements before the change took place.
Any chemical change involves two sets of substances: reactants and products. A reactant is an element or compound present before a chemical change takes place. In the example above, only one reactant was present: water. A product is an element or compound formed as a result of the chemical reaction. In the preceding example, both hydrogen and oxygen are products of the reaction.
Chemical reactions are represented by means of chemical equations. A chemical equation is a symbolic statement that represents the changes that occur during a chemical reaction. The statement consists of the symbols of the elements and the formulas of the products and reactants, along with other symbols that represent certain conditions present in the reaction. For example, the arrow (or yields) sign, *, separates the reactants from the products in a reaction. The chemical equation that represents the electrolysis of water is 2 H2O 2 H2 + O2.
(The entire section is 603 words.)
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