Examples of Physical Changes and Chemical Changes

What Are Some Physical and Chemical Changes?

In a physical change, matter changes form but not chemical identity. In a chemical change, a chemical reaction occurs and new products are formed.

ThoughtCo / Hilary Allison

Are you confused about the difference between chemical changes and physical changes and how to tell them apart? In a nutshell, a chemical change produces a new substance, while a physical change does not. A material may change shapes or forms while undergoing a physical change, but no chemical reactions occur and no new compounds are produced.

Key Takeaways: Chemical and Physical Change Examples

  • A chemical change results from a chemical reaction, while a physical change is when matter changes forms but not chemical identity.
  • Examples of chemical changes are burning, cooking, rusting, and rotting.
  • Examples of physical changes are boiling, melting, freezing, and shredding.
  • Many physical changes are reversible, if sufficient energy is supplied. The only way to reverse a chemical change is via another chemical reaction.

Examples of Chemical Changes

A new compound (product) results from a chemical change as the atoms rearrange themselves to form new chemical bonds. A chemical change always involves a chemical reaction. The starting materials and final product are chemically different from one another. Here are some examples of chemical changes:

  • Burning wood
  • Souring milk
  • Mixing acid and base
  • Digesting food
  • Cooking an egg
  • Heating sugar to form caramel
  • Baking a cake
  • Rusting of iron

Examples of Physical Changes

No new chemical species forms in a physical change. Changing the state of a pure substance between solid, liquid, or gas phase is a physical changes since the identity of the matter does not change. A physical change involves changes in physical properties, but not chemical properties. For example, physical properties change during tempering steel, crystallization, and melting. Here are examples of physical changes:

  • Crumpling a sheet of aluminum foil
  • Melting an ice cube
  • Casting silver in a mold
  • Breaking a bottle
  • Boiling water
  • Evaporating alcohol
  • Shredding paper
  • Sublimation of dry ice into carbon dioxide vapor
  • Carbon changing from graphite into a diamond

How to Tell Whether It's a Physical or Chemical Change?

Look for an indication that a chemical change occurred. Signs of a chemical change include the following:

  • Gas is produced. In liquids, bubbles may form.
  • An odor is produced.
  • The substance changes color.
  • Sound is produced.
  • There is a temperature change. The surroundings become either hot or cold.
  • Light is produced.
  • A precipitate forms.
  • The change is difficult or possible to reverse.

A chemical change might not display all of these signs. If you don't see any of these indications, a physical change likely occurred. Be aware a physical change may produce a dramatic change in the appearance of a substance. Every sign of a physical change can be produced by a physical change. This doesn't mean a chemical reaction occurred. The only way to know for certain whether a change is chemical or physical is a chemical analysis of the starting and ending materials.

In some cases, it may be hard to tell whether a chemical or physical change occurred. For example, when you dissolve sugar in water, a physical change occurs. The form of the sugar changes, but it remains the same chemically (sucrose molecules). However, when you dissolve the salt in water the salt dissociates into its ions (from NaCl into Na+ and Cl-) so a chemical change occurs. In both cases, a white solid dissolves into a clear liquid and in both cases, you can recover the starting material by removing the water, yet the processes are not the same.

Learn More

Explore chemical and physical changes in greater detail. Learn how they relate to chemical and physical properties of matter.


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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Examples of Physical Changes and Chemical Changes." ThoughtCo, Apr. 1, 2021, thoughtco.com/physical-and-chemical-changes-examples-608338. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, April 1). Examples of Physical Changes and Chemical Changes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/physical-and-chemical-changes-examples-608338 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Examples of Physical Changes and Chemical Changes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/physical-and-chemical-changes-examples-608338 (accessed April 15, 2021).

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