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Chemistry LibreTexts

5: Thermochemistry

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  • This chapter introduces you to thermochemistry, a branch of chemistry that describes the energy changes that occur during chemical reactions. In some situations, the energy produced by chemical reactions is actually of greater interest to chemists than the material products of the reaction. For example, the controlled combustion of organic molecules, primarily sugars and fats, within our cells provides the energy for physical activity, thought, and other complex chemical transformations that occur in our bodies. Similarly, our energy-intensive society extracts energy from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas, to manufacture clothing and furniture, heat your home in winter and cool it in summer, and power the car or bus that gets you to class and to the movies. By the end of this chapter, you will know enough about thermochemistry to explain why ice cubes cool a glass of soda, how instant cold packs and hot packs work, and why swimming pools and waterbeds are heated. You will also understand what factors determine the caloric content of your diet and why even “nonpolluting” uses of fossil fuels may be affecting the environment.

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