One of the most elusive concepts to grasp in physics is the nature of energy. Energy manifests itself in various forms and we study its properties indirectly through the changes it brings about in matter. All types of chemical reactions and physical changes can be broadly classified into two categories which include endothermic and exothermic reactions. In chemistry or physics, the basis for this classification is the input or output of energy which accompanies any chemical reaction. In this article, the focus is on presenting endothermic reaction examples and explaining what are endothermic reactions.
What is an Endothermic Reaction?
Right at the start, let me define what is meant by an endothermic reaction and identify some of its prime characteristics. Any chemical reaction that requires an external input of energy, in the form of heat, from the surroundings, is an endothermic reaction. So endothermic reactions are accompanied with absorption of heat from the surroundings, which brings down the external temperature.
Thermodynamics is devoted to the study of energy exchanges that occur through any chemical reaction and how it affects the state variables of any system. If any endothermic reactions occurs under conditions of constant pressure, there is an increase in the enthalpy of the system and if it occurs at constant volume, there is an increase in the internal energy of the system. One way of remembering the meaning of the term – ‘Endothermic’ is to break it down into two parts. ‘Endo’ means inside, while ‘thermic’ refers to heat.
Endothermic and exothermic reactions are exact opposites of each other. As an endothermic vs exothermic reaction comparison will reveal, while the former is triggered by absorption of heat, the latter is accompanied by an emission of energy. Let us now take a look at some spontaneous endothermic reaction examples.
Endothermic Reaction Examples
There is a single feature which may be used to identify any endothermic reactions and that is the absorption of heat. Here are some endothermic reactions from everyday life.
The whole food pyramid on Earth is sustained because of the presence of photosynthesizing plants that occur at the bottom of this pyramid. It is plants that create ‘food’ in the form of glucose, through the process of photosynthesis. This process of photosynthesis is a prime example of endothermic reactions. Plants receive energy in the form of sunlight falling on the leaves, which powers the photosynthesis reaction. Without sunlight, there can be no photosynthesis, which marks this reaction as an endothermic one.
When water evaporates and gets transformed into steam, it is because of the heat it receives from the surroundings. As heat energy is received by every water molecule its vibration energy increases to the point where it can move around freely, creating steam. This heat input from external sources marks it as an endothermic reaction.
While not a chemical reaction per se, melting of ice is also an example of endothermic reaction. The heat energy received by ice from its surroundings makes it melt into water. Since this physical change cannot occur without the heat input from surroundings, this phenomenon is classified as an endothermic reaction.
Electrolysis is the decomposition of a molecule into its constituent ions, because of the passage of an electric current. The energy required for electrolysis is supplied externally and hence electrolysis is another example of an endothermic reaction.
These were some of the prime endothermic reaction examples in everyday life. There are several more which you will observe in nature. Just remember that when heat is absorbed from the surroundings, in a chemical reaction, it’s an endothermic reaction. As we saw before, one of the prime chemical reactions on Earth, like photosynthesis, that makes life possible on Earth is an endothermic reaction. Hope this article has given you a clear idea of what endothermic reactions are and how to identify them.