Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Unizor - Physics4Teens - Energy - Chemical Energy of Atomic Bonds
Notes to a video lecture on http://www.unizor.com
Energy of Atomic Bonds
In this lecture we will analyze the energy aspect of chemical reactions.
Consider the reaction of burning of methane. This gas is used in regular
gas stoves, so the reaction happens every time we cook something.
A molecule of methane consists of one atom of carbon C and four atoms of hydrogen H, the chemical formula of methane is CH4.
You can imagine a molecule of methane as a tetrahedron, in its center is
an atom of carbon and on each of its four vertices is an atom of
A molecule of oxygen, as we know, consists of two atoms of oxygen and has a chemical formula O2.
As a result of the reaction of burning of methane, water and carbon dioxide are produced, according to the following equation:
CH4 + 2O2 = 2H2O + CO2
So, during this reaction
(a) four atomic bonds between carbon and hydrogen in one molecule of methane are broken,
(b) one atomic bond in each molecule of oxygen (out of two) are broken,
(c) two atomic bonds between hydrogen and oxygen in each molecule of water (out of two) are created,
(d) two atomic bonds between carbon and oxygen in a molecule of carbon dioxide are created.
Amounts of potential energy of the different atomic bonds are
experimentally determined, which would lead to calculation of the amount
of chemical energy released (for exothermic) or consumed (by
To make experiments to determine potential energy of the bonds inside a
molecule, we have to make experiments with known amounts of components
in chemical reaction. The reaction above includes one molecule of
methane and two molecules of oxygen. Obviously, we cannot experiment
with one or two molecules. The solution is to experiment with proportional amounts of components, say, 1 million of molecules of methane and 2 million of molecules of oxygen.
To explain how to do this, we have to get deeper into atoms. Physics
models atoms as consisting of three kinds of elementary particles -
protons (electrically positively charged), neutrons (electrically
neutral) and electrons (electrically negatively charged). This is a
relatively simple model, that corresponds to most of experiments, though
the reality is more complex than this. For our purposes we can view
this model of atom as a nucleus, that contains certain number of protons
and neutrons, and a number of electrons circulating the nucleus on
Electrons are very light relatively to protons and neutrons, so the mass
of an atom is concentrated, mostly, in its nucleus. Protons and neutron
have approximately the same mass, which is called atomic mass unit. So, the mass of an atom in atomic mass units
("atomic weight") is equal to the number of protons and neutrons in its
nucleus. This mass is known for each element of the Periodic Table of
Mendeleev, that is for each known atom.
For example, it is determined that atom of hydrogen H has atomic weight of 1 atomic unit, atom of carbon C has atomic weight of 12, atom of oxygen O has atomic weight 16.
Knowing atomic weights of atoms, we can calculate atomic weight of molecules. Thus, the atomic weight of a molecule of methane CH4 is 12+4=16. Atomic weight of a molecule of oxygen O2 is 16+16=32. Atomic weight of water H2O is 2+16=18.
Now we can take components of any chemical reaction proportional to the
atomic weight of corresponding molecules, which will result in
proportional number of molecules. For example, not being able to
experiment with one molecule of methane CH4 and two molecules of oxygen O2, we can experiment with 16 gram of methane and 64 gram
of oxygen, and the proportionality of the number of molecules will be
preserved - for each molecule of methane there will be two molecules of
As you see, taking amount of any mono-molecular substance in grams
equaled to the atomic weight of the molecules of this substance (called a
mole) assures taking the same number of molecules, regardless of the substance. This number is the Avogadro Number and is equal to N=6.02214076·1023.
Thus, one mole of methane CH4 (atomic weight of C is 12, atomic weight of H is 1) weighs 16g, one mole of silicon Si2 (atomic weight of Si is 14) weighs 28g, one mole of copper oxide CuO (atomic weight of Cu is 64, atomic weight of O
is 16) weighs 80g etc. And all those amounts of different substances
have the same number of molecules - the Avogadro number (approximately,
The theory behind the atomic bonds inside a molecule is quite complex
and is beyond the scope of this course. Based on this theory and
experimental data, for many kinds of atomic bonds there had been
obtained an amount of energy needed to break these bonds, that is its
inner chemical energy.
Thus, chemical energy of atomic bonds inside a mole of methane CH4
is 1640 kilo-joules (because a molecule of methane has 4 bonds between
carbon and each atom of hydrogen, each bond at 410KJ), inside a molecule
of oxygen O2 - 494 kilo-joules (1 bond between 2 atoms oxygen at 494KJ), inside a molecule of carbon dioxide CO2 is 1598 kilo-joules (2 bonds between carbon and each atom of oxygen, each 799KJ), inside a molecule of water H2O is 920 kilo-joules (2 bonds between oxygen and each atom of hydrogen, each 460KJ).
Let's go back to methane burning:
CH4 + 2O2 = 2H2O + CO2
This chemical reaction converts 1 mole of methane (16g) and 2 moles of
oxygen (64g) into 1 mole of carbon dioxide (44g) and 2 moles of water
The energy we have to spend to break the atomic bonds of 1 mole of methane and 2 moles of oxygen, according to above data, is
Ein = 1640 + 2·494 = 2628 KJ
The energy we have to spend to break atomic bonds of 2 moles of water and 1 mole of carbon dioxide, according to above data, is
Eout = 2·920 + 1598 = 3438 KJ
The net energy is
Enet = 2628 − 3438 = −810 KJ
This net energy is the amount of thermal energy released by burning 16g
of methane, using 64g of oxygen, obtaining as a result 44g of carbon
dioxide and 36g of water.