Exciting Chemical Reactions that Happen Everyday

Amy Hawthorne

by Amy Hawthorne

25th May 2015


Chemistry is all around us and chemical reactions occur every day in a lot of the processes we see and do on a regular basis.

Chemical reactions occur when substances react with one another; oxidation on an iron nail causes it to rust, and we get fire when oxygen reacts with a combustible material.

Exciting chemical reactions occur in ways you may have never considered before, such as when you cook an egg, brew coffee and even when tear gas is sprayed.

Metabolites Produced when we Drink Coffee


When caffeine reaches the liver, it’s converted into 3 metabolites that each have a unique function in the body.

Coffee has been consumed since the Stone Age, but it wasn’t always brewed with hot water and drunk out of a mug – people used to chew the bark and leaves of certain plants to achieve the energised effect.

The roasting of coffee involves multiple chemical reactions. 45 minutes after consuming coffee, it reaches the liver where it is converted into three primary metabolites; paraxanthine, theobromine and theophylline.

Each of these metabolites has its own function in the body. Paraxanthine stimulates lipolysis which increases the level of glycerol in the body, theobromine dilates the blood vessels to improve circulation, and theophylline can relax the muscles.

All of these chemical reactions occur to give us that familiar feeling we have after a cup of coffee in the morning!

Cooking Eggs

Eggs are made up of globular proteins that float in the water around them – the proteins are kept curled up tightly by weak chemical bonds.

Heating up the eggs causes these proteins to bounce around and uncurl from their original position. This causes new chemical bonds to form and we’re left with a network of interconnected proteins, which is how our cooked egg sticks together and becomes edible.

When boiling an egg, water evaporates and the proteins denature and polymerise. Once this chemical reaction is complete, it’s ready to go in an egg cup and dip toast into.

Chemical Reactions when we dye our hair

Whether we’re curling it, bleaching it or colouring it, our hair goes through a series of chemical reactions all the time.

Hydrogen peroxide in the hair dye “breaks down” the hair’s natural colour and then oxidises a polymeric reaction with dye monomers. The polymerisation creates a large colour molecule that stays in the hair.

The colouring is made possible as proteins in the hair are softened and can more easily accept the hair dye.

Ammonia in the product acts as a catalyst in the process. As an alkaline, it separates the cuticle and allows the new hair colour to penetrate the hair.

Chemistry of Fireworks

Since being invented in the 7th century, fireworks have worked by the chemical reactions that go off on ignition. Gun powder kicks off every firework display you’ve ever been to, as it is a mixture of an oxidising agent (such as potassium nitrate) and a reducing agent such as sulphur or charcoal.

When this mixture is ignited, the oxidiser combines with the fuel to produce heat that then causes different colouring agents to produce light of a certain colour.

Tear gas Chemistry

The chemical reactions involved in tear gas are not something all of us experience every day, but the science is interesting nonetheless.

So it doesn’t cause permanent damage, the reaction has to occur at the correct speed and all materials need to be controlled.

The reaction starts with charcoal and potassium nitrate – a key ingredient in gunpowder. When charcoal ignites, it releases oxygen and fuels the fire and at these high temperatures, small grains of silicon melt into very, very hot pieces.

The mixture becomes explosive if conditions get too acidic, but magnesium carbonate is present to control the situation and keep acidity levels down. As a result, the mixture doesn’t come out as an explosive bomb, but in controlled amounts that can seep into your eyes, ears, nose and lungs to receive the desired effect of tear gas.

Although we don’t spend our days creating fireworks or tear gas in the lab, the qualified chemists at ReAgent do know a lot about chemical reactions and can create products to your formula. Just get in touch to let us know your requirements.








All content published on the ReAgent.ie blog is for information only. The blog, its authors, and affiliates cannot be held responsible for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from using the information provided. Additionally, we do not recommend using any chemical without reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can be obtained from the manufacturer. You should also follow any safety advice and precautions listed on the product label. If you have health and safety related questions, visit HSE.gov.uk.

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