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Difference Between Chemical Reaction and Nuclear Reaction for JEE Main 2024

Last updated date: 09th Apr 2024
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Chemical Reaction and Nuclear Reaction

Have you ever helped your mother or father when they cook? If yes, then you must have observed many chemical reactions. Various chemical reactions occur around us such as photosynthesis, baking of bread and cake, burning of coal, burning of LPG etc. Even reaction in respiration is also an example of chemical reaction. On the other hand, nuclear reactions are rare compared to chemical reactions. Generally, we don’t observe nuclear reactions in our daily life because nuclear reactions are accompanied by large enthalpy changes. Nuclear fission releases a tremendous amount of energy while nuclear fusion requires very high temperatures and releases more energy than nuclear fission. The Sun has been a source of energy since ancient times. Do you know what is the reason behind continuous emission of energy from the Sun? Answer is that a nuclear fusion reaction takes place in the Sun which emits a tremendous amount of energy. Let us first discuss what is chemical reaction and nuclear reaction in brief then we will discuss the difference between chemical reaction and nuclear reaction in detail.  


What is Chemical Reaction? 

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A chemical reaction is the process in which reactants react chemically and convert into products by chemical transformation. For example – Respiration – we inhale oxygen which reacts with glucose and produces carbon dioxide, water and energy. The substances which react to form new substance/s in chemical reactions are called reactants while the new substance/s formed are called product/s. Reactants Products


In all chemical reactions chemical change/s takes place. It means as burning of coal produces sulfur dioxide and many other gases with fly ash which is a different chemical substance than coal, so it’s a chemical change. While when water (liquid) converts into ice no chemical change takes place, so it is not a chemical reaction. 


Chemical reactions are of many types such as addition reaction, combustion reaction, neutralization reaction, displacement reaction, decomposition reaction and precipitation reaction etc. 


A chemical reaction is a chemical change. The starting materials ( i.e the reactants) are different from the products. Chemical reactions revolve around the motion of different electrons leading to the formation and breaking of various bonds. There are different reactions. There are various ways of dividing them. Here are some common reaction types: 


Chemical reactions occur when bonds are formed or broken between molecules. Why some atoms combine with which other atoms is a complex question, which is overall explained by chemistry. There are many types of chemical bonds. Generally, the more closely overlapping the electron shells are, the stronger their bond is. Chemical reactions happen when heat, radiation and foreign chemicals disturb an equilibrium condition. They cause the breakage and formation of chemical bonds, thereby giving rise to new molecular forms. Chemical reactions can always be classified into a few categories. The simplest is probably the synthesis, where two or more molecules or atoms combine into a new molecule. Substitution is another variety of chemical reaction. It happens when a more reactive atom or molecule ejects a part of another molecule and takes its place. The number of chemical reactions in nature is extremely huge in number. There are more than billions. This is because of a very large molecules which have so many components. The number of possible reactions is large. This is particularly true in organic chemistry, where many atom and molecules exist. Life is possible because of this tremendous amount of possible chemical configurations achievable by organic molecules.


What is Nuclear Reaction?

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In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, the reactions in which one or more nuclides are produced by the collisions between atomic nuclei or subatomic particles & atomic nuclei, are called nuclear reactions.


Nuclear reactions release a tremendous amount of energy. Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion are two types of nuclear reactions. Humans have been able to control nuclear fission, but the amount of energy released in nuclear fusion is very large and we have not been able to control it till now. Some research is going on, but it is still years away from any practical application. Nuclear fusion takes place in the sun. The sun has been the source of energy since the birth of the solar system. 


We use nuclear reactions to generate energy at a large scale. Many power plants run on nuclear reactors in which the nuclear fission reaction takes place. But we need to be very vigilant and careful while using these reactions as energy sources because these reactions can be very dangerous in an uncontrolled way. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster is one such example.


Nuclear reaction is the change in the identity or characteristics of an atomic nucleus, induced by bombarding it with an energetic particle. A typical nuclear reaction involves two reacting particles, a heavy target nucleus and a light bombarding particle. Ernest Rutherford bombarded nitrogen molecules with alpha particles and identified the more ejected lighter particles. 


Difference between a Chemical Reaction and Nuclear Reaction

S. No. 

Chemical Reaction 

Nuclear Reaction


A chemical reaction is the process in which reactants react chemically and convert into products by chemical transformation.

Nuclear reactions are those reactions in which nuclear transformation takes place.


During chemical reactions elements remain the same and do not lose their identity. For example, in formation of the water molecule, hydrogen and oxygen elements participate. H and O remain the same in the product (no new element is formed) although their properties change.  

During chemical reactions atoms of the elements do not remain the same and lose their identity and form new elements. For example, beta decay of 14C releases a beta particle and forms 14N. 


Oxidation state of elements keeps matter in chemical reactions. 

Oxidation state of elements does not keep matter in nuclear reactions as reactivity of an element in a nuclear reaction is independent of its oxidation state. 


Chemical reactivity of all isotopes of an element is almost the same (or has very less difference compared to nuclear reaction). 

Nuclear reactivity of isotopes of an element differs. For example, 235U undergoes nuclear fission faster than 238U. 


Rate of chemical reaction is affected by temperature, pressure and catalysts up to a large extent. 

Rate of nuclear reactions does not depend on temperature, pressure and catalysts but it depends on nucleons. 


Chemical reactions can be reversed.  

Nuclear reactions are irreversible. 


Chemical reactions are accompanied by smaller changes in energy. Energy change can be expressed in j/mol or Kj/mol.

Nuclear reactions are accompanied by larger changes in energy. Energy change is expressed in million electron volts per individual nucleus. 


Chemical reactions follow the law of conservation of mass. It means in these reactions no measurable change takes place in mass. 

Nuclear reactions do not follow the law of conservation of mass. In these reactions measurable change in mass takes place. 


Electrons present in orbits participate in these reactions while neutrons and protons do not take part in these reactions. 

In these reactions neutrons and protons also participate. 


These reactions occur when new bonds form and old bonds break between atoms. 

These reactions occur by nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. 


Example – Na + Cl → NaCl 

Example - 235U + 1n → 141Ba + 92Kr + 31n


This ends our coverage on the topic “Difference between chemical reaction and nuclear reaction”. We hope you enjoyed learning and were able to grasp the concepts. We hope after reading this article you will be able to solve problems based on the topic. If you are looking for solutions to NCERT Textbook problems based on this topic, then log on to Vedantu website or download Vedantu Learning App. By doing so, you will be able to access free PDFs of NCERT Solutions as well as Revision notes, Mock Tests and much more.

FAQs on Difference Between Chemical Reaction and Nuclear Reaction for JEE Main 2024

1. How to recognise if a chemical reaction is happening around you?

The first step to recognizing chemical reactions in the world around is to identify whenever a reaction is taking place. Chemical reactions cause chemical changes. In other words, substances interact and form or break new products. Not every change in matter has to be a chemical reaction such as, melting ice, tearing a sheet of paper into strips, breaking glasses, cutting sheets and dissolving sugar in water are physical changes that never change the chemical nature of matter.

Here are some features of a chemical reaction. If one or more sign is present, it’s likely a reaction has occurred:

  • Change in Temperature

  • Change in Color

  • Odor

  • Bubbling or gas production

  • Formation of a solid called a precipitate when liquids are mixed.

2. Give some examples of chemical reactions from daily life.

Ans: Some examples of chemical reactions from daily life are:


We experience combustion reactions when we strike a match or burn a candle or start a campfire, or light a grill. In a combustion reaction, a fuel reacts with the oxygen molecule from the air in the atmosphere  to produce water and carbon dioxide. Here is the reaction for combustion of propane, a fuel which is used in gas grills and some fireplaces:

C3H8 + 5O2 → 4H2O + 3CO2 + energy 


Plants use a chemical reaction called photosynthesis for converting carbon dioxide and water into food ( i.e, glucose) and oxygen. It’s a more key reaction because it generates oxygen and it yields food for plants and animals. The overall chemical reaction used  for photosynthesis is:

6 CO2 + 6 H2O + light → C​6H12O6 + 6 O2

Anaerobic Cellular Respiration

Organisms have ways to get energy without oxygen. Humans use the anaerobic respiration during intense or prolonged exercise to get enough energy towards the muscle cells. Yeast and bacteria use anaerobic respiration in the form of fermentation process to make everyday usage  products, such as wine, vinegar, yogurt, bread, cheese, and beer. The equation used for one form of anaerobic respiration is:

C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2 + energy


Rust, verdigris, and tarnish are examples of various common oxidation reactions. When iron rusts, it changes its color and texture form to make a flake coating called rust. The reaction also releases heat, but the process usually occurs too slowly for this to be noticeable in general. Here is the chemical equation used for the rusting of iron:

Fe + O2 + H2O → Fe2O3. XH2O


Digestion is a complex process that involves a lot of chemical reactions. When you put food in your mouth, water and the enzyme amylase break down sugar and other carbohydrates into the simpler molecules. Hydrochloric acid and enzymes break down proteins in the stomach. Sodium bicarbonate released into the small intestine neutralizes the acid and it protects the digestive tract from dissolving itself.

Acid-Base Reactions

Acid-base reactions occur anytime while mixing an acid (e.g., lemon juice, vinegar, muriatic acid, battery acid, carbonic acid from carbonated beverages) with a base (e.g., baking soda, ammonia, lye). A good example of an acid base reaction is the reaction which exists between baking soda and vinegar to form sodium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide gas:

NaHCO3 + HC2H3O2 → NaC2H3O2 + H2O + CO2

In general, a reaction happens between an acid and a base produces salt and water. For example, if you mix muriatic acid (HCl) and lye (NaOH), you get table salt (NaCl) and water (H2O):

HCl + NaOH → NaCl + H2O

In this reaction, two clear liquids form another clear liquid, but we can tell a reaction occurs because it releases a lot more heat.

3. What are nuclear reactors?

Nuclear reactors  contain and control nuclear reactions that produce heat through a more physical process called fission. That heat is used to make steam that spins the turbine to create electricity.

4. Give examples of nuclear reactions.

Nuclear fission of U-235

In this reaction, a neutron bombards the nucleus of uranium-235 nucleus producing krypton-91, barium -142 and three more neutrons.