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|Chapter Two: The Chemistry of Biology|
A chemical reaction is simply the breaking of bonds and/or the formation of new bonds between atoms and molecules. Chemical reactions are written in a very simple way; they look somewhat like a math equation. On the left side are the compounds (compounds are just collections of the same type of molecule) that existed before the reaction, and on the right side are the compounds which formed after the reaction. These compounds are called the reactants and the products respectively. Below is a simple chemical reaction that often occurs within cells.
C6H12O6 + 6O2 6CO2 + 6H2O + energy
Now, let's look at this reaction in further detail. The reactants in this reaction are C6H12O6 (also known as glucose, a type of sugar) and O2 (the form of oxygen one would find in the atmosphere). Notice that one molecule of glucose and six molecules of O2 are required for the reaction. The products of the reaction are CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water), six molecules of each. Also produced is energy, which is released when some of the bonds in the glucose molecule are broken.
Try counting how many atoms of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen there are on either side of the reaction. You'll find that there are 6 carbon atoms, 18 oxygen atoms, and 12 hydrogen atoms on both sides. In all chemical reactions in a cell, the number of atoms of each element on either side of the reaction is equal.