What is the difference between chemical reactions and chemical equations?

1 Answer
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.


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:

#CH_4(g) + 2O_2(g) rarr CO_2(g) + 2H_2O(l)#;

#C_15H_32(l) + 23O_2(g) rarr 15CO_2(g) + 16H_2O(l)#.

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