What is Chemical Energy?

Chemical energy (chemical potential energy) is the energy stored in the bonds of a chemical substance and is released when the substance undergoes a chemical reaction.

Examples of substances containing chemical energy

Examples of substances containing chemical energy include:

  • battery electrolytes
  • food such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins
  • fuels such as petrol and coal.

Energy conversion involving chemical energy

Energy (such as heat energy or light energy) absorbed when chemical substances react is stored in form of chemical energy. For example, in the process of photosynthesis, when carbon dioxide react with water to form carbohydrates and oxygen, light energy is absorbed by the reactants and stored in the carbohydrates as chemical energy. There the energy chain of photosynthesis is:

light energy → chemical energy

The carbohydrate molecules can then later release that same amount of chemical energy in form of heat energy and light energy when they burn. The energy chain for the burning of carbohydrates is:

chemical energy → light energy + heat energy

Other examples of chemical energy conversions

Energy Conversion When Charging a Battery

electrical energy → chemical energy


Photo by mohamed abdelghaffar from Pexels

Energy Conversion When Discharging a Battery

chemical energy → electrical energy

Energy Conversion When Burning a Fuel

chemical energy → electrical energy

power station

Photo by Markus Distelrath from Pexels

Energy Conversion In a Thermal Power Station

chemical energy → heat energy → kinetic energy → electrical energy

Energy Conversion In a Car Engine

chemical energy → heat energy → kinetic energy

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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