The burning of paper is a chemical change. It involves a chemical reaction known as combustion, where the cellulose fibers in the paper react with oxygen in the air, releasing heat, light, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The original paper undergoes irreversible chemical changes, resulting in the formation of new substances.
Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.
So let’s dive right into it.
Key Takeaways: Is Burning of Paper a Physical or Chemical Change?
- Burning paper is a chemical change because it involves a chemical reaction called combustion, resulting in the formation of new substances.
- The cellulose fibers in the paper react with oxygen, breaking down and forming carbon dioxide, water vapor, heat, and light.
- Burning paper is not a physical change because it does not involve a change in the paper’s physical state or arrangement, but rather a transformation at the molecular level.
Why is burning paper a chemical change?
Burning paper is considered a chemical change because it involves a chemical reaction that results in the formation of new substances. When paper burns, it undergoes a process called combustion, which is a rapid chemical reaction between the paper and oxygen in the air.
The paper is primarily composed of cellulose, a complex organic compound made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. 1 2 During combustion, the heat from a flame breaks down the cellulose molecules in the paper into smaller molecules, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. This process releases energy in the form of heat and light.
The chemical reaction can be summarized by the following equation:
Cellulose (paper) + Oxygen (from air) → Carbon Dioxide + Water Vapor + Heat + Light
The formation of carbon dioxide and water vapor, along with the release of energy in the form of heat and light, indicates that a chemical reaction has occurred. These new substances have different properties compared to the original paper, and the change cannot be easily reversed.
Furthermore, burning paper involves an exothermic reaction, meaning it releases heat energy. This is evident from the flames and the generation of ash as a byproduct of the combustion process.
In conclusion, burning paper is considered a chemical change because it involves a chemical reaction resulting in the formation of new substances and the release of heat and light.
Why is burning paper not a physical change?
Burning paper is not a physical change because it does not involve a change in the paper’s physical state or composition. Instead, it undergoes a chemical reaction where new substances are formed.
In a physical change, the properties and composition of a substance remain the same, but there may be a change in its physical state or form. 3 For example, melting ice into water or dissolving sugar in water are physical changes because the substances involved remain the same, only their physical state or arrangement changes.
On the other hand, when paper burns, it undergoes a chemical reaction called combustion. The cellulose molecules in the paper break down, forming new substances like carbon dioxide and water vapor.
This chemical reaction results in a change in the paper’s composition and the formation of completely different substances.
Additionally, burning paper involves the release of energy in the form of heat and light, which further supports the fact that a chemical reaction is taking place.
Therefore, due to the change in composition, the formation of new substances, and the release of energy, burning paper is classified as a chemical change rather than a physical change.
Is Melting a Physical or Chemical Change?
Is Burning a Physical or Chemical Change?
Is Frying (or Cooking) an Egg a Chemical Change?
Is Cooking a Physical or Chemical Change?
Why is Digestion of Food a Chemical Change?
Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.
Read more about our Editorial process.
- Cellulose – Wikipedia. (2012, August 28). Cellulose – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulose
- P. (n.d.). Cellulose. Cellulose | C12H22O11 | CID 16211032 – PubChem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/16211032
- Changes in Matter: Physical vs. Chemical Changes. (n.d.). Changes in Matter: Physical Vs. Chemical Changes. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/changes-matter-physical-vs-chemical-changes