By definition, chemical energy refers to the stored energy inside chemical bonds, and it is released by way of exothermic reactions. Some of its sources include crude oil, coal, organic material and wood. When a reaction happens in combustion processes, there is probability that the amount of energy being released will vary, since it would depend on the chemical bond’s nature. Now, if you want to know that kind of chemical energy is helpful in various industrial and social aspects, you should look into its advantages and disadvantages.
List of Advantages of Chemical Energy
1. It is an abundant source of energy.
Almost all sources of chemical energy, such as crude oil, wood, organic materials like wax and coal, can be found around the world, and humans are very dependent on these energy sources. This is the reason why worldwide economies are being affected when prices of these energy sources fluctuate.
One of the most copious and common chemical energy sources available these days is crude oil, which is extracted from underlying sedimentary layers of our planet’s crust. It is produced from the process of chemical conversion that occurs in the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals under great pressure exerted by the Earth’s layer. According to statistics, people in many countries have a very high dependency on crude oil that the status of all global economies is affected directly by its price fluctuations.
2. It produces high octane fuels that provide a substantial amount of power.
The power packed in by high octane fuels that are derived by refining crude oil is substantially high in comparison to other energy sources, making it possible for cars, trucks and other vehicles attainment high speeds. The power that is released by chemical energy through combustion-induced bond breakage in gas is immense, and it is one of the biggest contributing factors to its popularity as a fuel source.
3. It will combust easily.
Easy combustibility is another great advantage of chemical energy. As compared to other sources of energy, chemical energy produces fuels that are simply combustible and are capable of giving out instant energy. It only requires the availability of air to ignite the source with sufficient oxygen content. Simply put, instant energy can be produced due to the easy combustibility of chemical energy.
4. It will combust efficiently.
The efficiency of combustion highly depends on the availability of oxygen. So if a system is designed well, for example a car engine, efficient combustion can be achieved.
With chemical energy sources, the efficiency of combustion is definitely high. This is one excellent reason why the chemical energy, which is released through crude oil combustion, is highly preferred over any other power source. Certainly, the combustion’s efficiency is dependent on the oxygen’s availability, and so the system of a vehicle engine holds a huge impact on the efficiency of travel on the road or even in the air.
5. It is the easiest and most efficient energy source to store and utilize.
Chemical energy is so readily available and is found in nearly everything we use. Even used by our bodies, it has been the source of life for billions of years, and the developments in chemical energy technology have led to long-lasting rechargeable batteries. It is also hoped that it will be used in producing renewable energy resources in the future.
To dig deeper into this aspect, it is noteworthy that chemical energy is a form of potential energy that is related to the structural arrangement of molecules or atoms. This arrangement might be the result of bonding chemicals within a molecule or otherwise. The energy of a chemical substance can be transformed to other forms of power through chemical reactions.
For example, when a fuel is burned, the chemical energy is converted to heat, which is similar to digestion of food metabolized in a biological organism. Green plants can also transform energy from the sun to chemical energy through the process known as photosynthesis. Electrical energy can also be converted to chemical energy through electrochemical reaction processes.
6. It plays an important role in society and somehow the environment.
Chemical energy is very helpful to society in the form of power cells. Batteries work by using multiple chemicals that interact with each other, creating electrical energy. The type of battery that is widely used around the world is the zinc-copper cell, which uses the chemicals zinc and copper, where the former is being designated the negative side and the latter being designated the positive side.
By connecting a wire to both ends, the acid inside the battery is excited and will break down some of the zinc. The electrons from this element are then free to travel along the wire to the copper side, where electrical circuits are conducted and then allowed to flow into the device that the battery is powering up. Other essential processes that involve chemical energy are photosynthesis, food creation and, again, gasoline combustion.
Indeed, chemical energy plays an important role in each of our everyday lives, and it would be impossible to ignore the advantages we can enjoy from it. With this in mind, we will learn to appreciate its importance and will find ways to contribute to its conservation. Now, we evaluate its disadvantages.
List of Disadvantages of Chemical Energy
1. It can be harmful to the environment.
Before the sources are converted into useful energy, combustion is required and this can produce harmful by-products which can contribute to pollution. Since chemical energy is derived from organic materials, there is a high risk that the environment will be greatly affected by it, particularly because of too much combustion that is required for its production.
However, we as users can do our part in controlling such effects. For example, governments can create some policies over the proper use of chemical energy to reduce carbon footprints. Also, private institutions within this industry can implement some new technologies to deal with such a downside.
2. It comes with a high cost.
This is another practical disadvantage of using chemical energy. The production of nuclear energy, in particular, needs a lot of money to invest and set up nuclear power stations. It is important to take note that it is not always possible by many developing countries to afford such a costly source of energy. Normally, nuclear power plants take five to ten years to construct and complete, as there is a wide array of legal formalities to be done, which is, most of the time, opposed by the people who are living near the area.
3. It can produce radioactive waste.
This is particularly the case with regards to nuclear power production. The waste produced by reactors needs to be disposed of properly to a secure area, since it is extremely hazardous and can leak radiations if not stored properly. The radiations emitted by this kind of waste can last to tens or even hundreds of years. This is the reason why the storage of radioactive waste has been a major bottleneck for expansions of nuclear programs.
Nuclear wastes contain radio isotopes with long half-lives, which means that they stay in the atmosphere in some form or the other. These reactive radicals can make sand or water contaminated, which is known as mixed waste that can cause hazardous chemical reactions and can lead to dangerous complications.
To manage such waste, plants would usually bury it under sand in a process known as vitrification. However, another danger this method brings is that the waste can be used to make nuclear weapons. This thought alone can make people nearby afraid of what the substance can impact their lives.
4. It is non-renewable.
Most sources of chemical energy cannot be replenished. Taking the case of nuclear energy once more, some plants use uranium, which is a scarce resource and is not found in many countries. In fact, several nations rely on other regions for the constant supply of this fuel. It is mined and transported like any other metal, and its supply is said to be available as long as it is there. This means once all of it is extracted, nuclear plants will not be useful or operational anymore. Due to the fact that it is limited and can be hazardous, it cannot be termed as renewable.
5. It is not good for human health.
Considering the fact that chemical energy is highly combustible, it is expected to contribute to pollution, which causes various illnesses and is never good for human health. This is seen as the biggest disadvantage of chemical energy. This is also the main reason why researchers and scientists are searching for alternative sources of energy that are less or totally not harmful to humans and the environment. Global warming has worsened in recent years because of heavy pollution in the different parts of the world, and through alternative energy sources, its effects can be controlled and lessened.
In conclusion, everything we see in this world definitely has advantages and disadvantages. Chemical energy is vital to modern living, but since it also comes with potential disadvantages, it is always recommended that we conserve energy and think of ways to help save the environment. Even in our own little ways, we can contribute to energy conservation.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.