Chemical Reactions Happening in Daily Life

Lucy Bell-Young

by Lucy Bell-Young

13th January 2021

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. Here’s a closer look at all of them!

Chemical Reactions In Coffee

Coffee has been consumed since the Stone Age, but it wasn’t always brewed with hot water and drank 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’s 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
  • 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! If you want a closer look at the chemistry of coffee, check out this blog where we go more in-depth.

Infographic showing the chemistry of coffee

Cooking An Egg Chemical Reaction

Eggs are made up of globular proteins that float in the water around them. These 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 be greeted by soldiers!

Man breaking egg into frying pan

Hair Dye Chemical Reaction

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. Meanwhile, the ammonia present in the hair dye acts as a catalyst in the process. As an alkaline, it works by separating the cuticle and allowing the new colour to penetrate the hair.

The Chemistry of Fireworks

Since being invented in the 7th century, fireworks are the result of a series of chemical reactions that go off on ignition. Gunpowder kicks off every firework display you’ve ever been to, and it’s 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. Again, if you’d like to know more about this awesome process, head over to our blog on the chemistry of fireworks.

Tear Gas Chemistry

The chemical reactions involved in tear gas aren’t something all of us experience every day, but the science is interesting nonetheless. So that it doesn’t cause permanent damage, the reaction in tear gas 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. 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.



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