Chemical Energy is energy stored in the bonds of chemical compounds (atoms and molecules). It is released in a chemical reaction, often producing heat as a by-product (exothermic reaction). Batteries, biomass, petroleum, natural gas, and coal are examples of stored chemical energy. Usually, once chemical energy is released from a substance, that substance is transformed into an entirely new substance.
For example, when an explosive goes off, chemical energy stored in it is transferred to the surroundings as thermal energy, sound energy and kinetic energy.
Let's see one good example in the fire-place illustration below.
The dry wood is a store of chemical energy. As it burns in the fireplace, chemical energy is released and converted to thermal energy (heat) and light energy. Notice that the wood now turns into ashes (a new substance)
Food is also a good example of stored chemical energy. This energy is released during digestion. Molecules in our food are broken down into smaller pieces. As the bonds between these atoms loosen or break, a chemical reaction will occur, and new compounds are created. When the bonds break or loosen, oxidation occurs almost instantly.
In the example above, notice that new compounds are formed from the breakdown of other molecules or atoms. Chemical reaction causes that.
A chemical reaction is involved in this breakdown. The energy produced keeps us warm, maintain and repair bodies, and makes us able to move about. Different foods store different amounts of energy.
Energy in food is measured in kilocalories (or Calories). Can you think of some very good examples of chemical energy?
Click to see an example of how chemical energy is released from coal to produce electricity.