What is the difference between chemical reactions and chemical equations?

Jan 4, 2016

Chemical reactions are what actually occurs in a test-tube, a flask, or in a reactor; chemical equations are our attempts to rationalize and quantify this reactivity.

Explanation:

At present, in Old Blighty, my room is heated by a chemical reaction; that is by the combustion of natural gas to give carbon dioxide and water. My motor is also driven by the combustion of diesel, another chemical reaction.

I can write equations that represent this reactivity:

$C {H}_{4} \left(g\right) + 2 {O}_{2} \left(g\right) \rightarrow C {O}_{2} \left(g\right) + 2 {H}_{2} O \left(l\right)$;

${C}_{15} {H}_{32} \left(l\right) + 23 {O}_{2} \left(g\right) \rightarrow 15 C {O}_{2} \left(g\right) + 16 {H}_{2} O \left(l\right)$.

Both chemical equations are idealized. Certainly, for the diesel combustion, there is going to be a significant degree of incomplete combustion to give $C O$ and particulate $C$ as reaction products. Nevertheless, I may use the equation to model the particular chemical reaction that occurs.