Published On: Tue, Sep 22nd, 2020

The Components of a Chemical Reaction

A chemical reaction sounds dramatic, and it can be, but it is also a part of everyday life. There are chemical reactions taking place inside your body as you digest your food, and the catalytic converter scrap left behind from old vehicles pays testament to how they have functioned to remove harmful pollutants from car exhaust. Human beings and other lifeforms depend on the products of some chemical reactions, such as water and salt, for survival.

Chemical Reaction

Chemical reactions occur when the atoms that form molecules break bonds with one another and/or form new bonds with other atoms. The following is an overview of the different components involved in a chemical reaction.


There are several types of chemical reactions. Molecules can break apart into separate atoms of different elements. These atoms can sometimes form new bonds with other elements or compounds to produce a new substance. Different molecules can sometimes join together to form a completely new molecule. Whatever the case, the atoms and molecules that break their bonds or form new ones are called reactants.

Sometimes chemical reactions are reversible, which means the bond that was broken can be formed again, or vice versa. Other times, the reactions are irreversible. Sometimes the reactions happen very quickly. For example, when sodium reacts with chlorine gas, it produces a bright flash of light and heat. However, not all reactions are so swift. Some can actually take years.


It is not always convenient for chemical reactions to take place so slowly. Catalysts can help speed up the process. A catalyst isn’t involved directly in the reaction and undergoes no changes itself. However, its presence helps the reaction take place more efficiently by lowering the energy needed for the changes to occur. In other words, a catalyst facilitates the reaction without being affected itself. Catalysts used in the industry are created by the manufacturers. Biological chemical reactions involve naturally occurring catalysts called enzymes.


The products of the chemical reaction are what remains after it takes place. For example, in the reaction between sodium and chlorine mentioned above, the product that remains after the dramatic initial reaction is sodium chloride, or common table salt. Another product of a chemical reaction that we depend on for life is water, which consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

However, not all products of chemical reactions are beneficial. Sometimes they produce poisonous substances. For example, chlorine bleach reacts with ammonia to produce a noxious gas that can cause asphyxiation.