Physical and Chemical Changes

In day to day life we come across many changes in our surroundings. These changes may involve one or more substances. Broadly, these changes are of two kinds, physical and chemical changes.


  • Properties such as shape, size, colour and state of a substance are called its physical properties. A change in which a substance undergoes a change in its physical properties is called a physical change.
  • A physical change is generally reversible. In such a change no new substance is formed.


  • A change in which one or more new substances are formed is called a chemical change. A chemical change is also called a chemical reaction.
  • Chemical changes are very important in our lives. All new substances are formed as a result of chemical changes. For example, digestion of food in our body, ripening of fruits, fermentation of grapes, etc., happen due to series of chemical changes.
  • A medicine is the end product of a chain of chemical reactions. Useful new materials, such as plastics and detergents, are produced by chemical reactions. Indeed, every new material is discovered by studying chemical changes. One or more new substances are produced in a chemical change.

In addition to new products, the following may accompany a chemical change:

  • Heat, light or any other radiation (ultraviolet, for example) may be given off or absorbed.
  • Sound may be produced.
  • A change in smell may take place or a new smell may be given off.
  • A colour change may take place .
  • A gas may be formed.
  • Burning of coal, wood or leaves is also a chemical change. In fact, burning of any substance is a chemical change. Burning is always accompanied by production of heat.
  • Explosion of a firework is a chemical change. Such an explosion produces heat, light, sound and unpleasant gases that pollute the atmosphere.
  • When food gets spoiled, it produces a foul smell. This change is also a chemical change?
  • Photosynthesis is also a chemical change. Even digestion is a chemical change.

Ozone layer in our atmosphere protects us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation which come from the sun. Ozone absorbs this radiation and breaks down to oxygen. Oxygen is different from ozone. If ultraviolet radiation were not absorbed by ozone, it would reach the earth’s surface and cause harm to us and other life forms. Ozone acts as a natural shield against this radiation.


  • This is one change that affects iron articles and slowly destroys them. Since iron is used in making bridges, ships, cars, truck bodies and many other articles, the monetary loss due to rusting is huge.
  • The process of rusting can be represented by the following equation:Iron (Fe) + Oxygen (O2 , from the air) + water (H2O) → rust (iron oxide Fe2O3 )
  • For rusting, the presence of both oxygen and water (or water vapour) is essential. In fact, if the content of moisture in air is high, which means if it is more humid, rusting becomes faster.
  • To prevent rusting, Iron articles should be prevented from coming in contact with oxygen, or water, or both. One simple way is to apply a coat of paint or grease. Another way is to deposit a layer of a metal like chromium or zinc on iron.
  • This process of depositing a layer of zinc on iron is called galvanisation. The iron pipes we use in our homes to carry water are galvanised to prevent rusting. Ships are made of iron and a part of them remains under water. On the part above water also, water drops keep clinging to the ship’s outer surface. Moreover, the water of the sea contains many salts. The salt water makes the process of rust formation faster. Therefore, ships suffer a lot of damage from rusting.

Near the Qutub Minar in Delhi stands an iron pillar which is more than 7 metres high. It weighs more than 6000 kg. It was built more than 1600 years ago. After such a long period it has not rusted. For its quality of rust resistance it has been examined by scientists from all parts of the world. It tells something about the advances India had made in metal technology as back as 1600 years ago.


Salt can be obtained by the evaporation of sea water. The salt obtained in this manner is not pure and the shape of its crystals cannot be seen clearly. However, large crystals of pure substances can be formed from their solutions. The process is called crystallisation. It is an example of a physical change. [ Text Source : NCERT, Photo- ]
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