Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

5: Introduction to Chemical Reactions

Chemical change is a central concept in chemistry. The goal of chemists is to know how and why a substance changes in the presence of another substance or even by itself. Because there are tens of millions of known substances, there are a huge number of possible chemical reactions. In this chapter, we will find that many of these reactions can be classified into a small number of categories according to certain shared characteristics.

  • 5.1: The Law of Conservation of Matter
    One scientific law that provides the foundation for understanding in chemistry is the law of conservation of matter. It states that in any given system that is closed to the transfer of matter (in and out), the amount of matter in the system stays constant. A concise way of expressing this law is to say that the amount of matter in a system is conserved. The amount of matter in a closed system is conserved.
  • 5.2: Chemical Equations
    Chemical reactions are represented by chemical equations that list reactants and products. Proper chemical equations are balanced; the same number of each element’s atoms appears on each side of the equation.
  • 5.3: Quantitative Relationships Based on Chemical Equations
    A balanced chemical equation not only describes some of the chemical properties of substances—by showing us what substances react with what other substances to make what products—but also shows numerical relationships between the reactants and the products. The study of these numerical relationships is called stoichiometry.  A balanced chemical equation gives the ratios in which molecules of substances react and are produced in a chemical reaction.
  • 5.4: Some Types of Chemical Reactions
    Although there are untold millions of possible chemical reactions, most can be classified into a small number of general reaction types. Classifying reactions has two purposes: it helps us to recognize similarities among them, and it enables us to predict the products of certain reactions. A particular reaction may fall into more than one of the categories that we will define in this book.
  • 5.5: Oxidation-Reduction (Redox) Reactions
    Chemical reactions in which electrons are transferred are called oxidation-reduction, or redox, reactions. Oxidation is the loss of electrons. Reduction is the gain of electrons. Oxidation and reduction always occur together, even though they can be written as separate chemical equations.
  • 5.6: Redox Reactions in Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
    Redox reactions are common in organic and biological chemistry, including the combustion of organic chemicals, respiration, and photosynthesis.
  • 5.E: Introduction to Chemical Reactions (Exercises)
  • 5.S: Introduction to Chemical Reactions (Summary)
    To ensure that you understand the material in this chapter, you should review the meanings of the following bold terms in the following summary and ask yourself how they relate to the topics in the chapter.