Difference Between Reactants and Products

Main Difference – Reactants vs Products

Reactants and products are the two major components of a chemical reaction. Reactants are the starting material of a chemical reaction. Products are the chemical species that can be found after the completion of the reaction. There are various types of chemical reactions such as acid-base reactions, redox reactions, and combustion reactions. Therefore, the same reactant would sometimes give different products according to the type of reaction it is involved in. The main difference between reactants and products is that reactants are consumed throughout the reaction whereas products are formed from the reaction.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Reactants
      – Definition, Properties, Types of Reactions and their Reactants
2. What are Products
      – Definition, Properties, Types of Reactions and their Products
3. What are the Similarities Between Reactants and Products
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Reactants and Products
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Acid-base Reactions, Combustion Reactions, Decomposition Reactions, Endothermic Reactions, Exothermic Reactions, Precipitation Reactions, Products, Reactants, Redox Reactions, Synthesis Reactions

Difference Between Electrophile and Nucleophile - Comparison Summary

What are Reactants

Reactants are chemical species that act as the starting material of a chemical reaction. Reactants are consumed during the progression of a chemical reaction. At the end of the reaction, none of the reactants may be present in the reaction mixture, but sometimes some of the reactants may be present at the end.

Reactants can be either colorless or colorful. They can result in either colorless or colorful products at the end, depending on the type and conditions of the reaction. The reactants of a chemical reaction can be in solid phase, liquid phase or gaseous phase. According to the type of reaction, reactants vary.

Types of Reactions and Reactants

Acid-Base Reactions

The reactants of these reactions are acids and bases.

Redox Reactions

The reactants are oxidizing agents and reducing agents. Sometimes, buffer solutions are also used to maintain the pH of the reaction mixture.

Synthesis Reactions

The reactants of synthesis reactions are small molecules than their products.

Decomposition Reactions

In decomposition reactions, reactants are large molecules than the products of that reaction.

Combustion Reactions

The reactants of combustion reactions are highly flammable chemical species.

Precipitation Reactions

Most of the times, the reactants of precipitation reactions are liquids.

Exothermic Reactions

The reactants of these chemical reactions have a higher potential energy than that of products.

Endothermic Reactions

The reactants of these reactions have a low potential energy than that of products.

The rate of reaction is also influenced by reactants. The rate of a particular reaction will depend on the potential energies of reactants.

Main Difference -  Reactants vs  Products

Figure 01: The reaction-coordinate diagram for an exothermic chemical reaction

The above image shows a reaction-coordinate diagram for a particular chemical reaction. In this reaction, the reactants have a high potential energy than the products. Therefore, during the progression of this reaction, excess energy is released to the surrounding.

What are Products

Products are substances formed as a result of a chemical reaction. These products can be either ions or molecules. The product of a particular chemical reaction can occur in the solid phase, liquid phase or gaseous phase.

Products can be either colorless or colorful. The color of the product depends on the types of reactants involved in the reaction. The amount of products present in a reaction mixture always increases with the progression of the reaction.

Types of Reactions and their Products

Acid-Base Reactions

The products of these reactions are always a salt and water.

Redox Reactions

The products are oxidized and the reduced forms of reactants. Often water is given as a product.  

Synthesis Reactions

The products of synthesis reactions are large molecules than the reactants.

Decomposition reactions

In decomposition reactions, products are small molecules than the reactants.

Combustion Reactions

The products of combustion reactions are often carbon dioxide and water for complete combustion (of hydrocarbons) and carbon monoxide for incomplete combustion.

Precipitation Reactions

Products of precipitation reactions are solid precipitates or suspensions.

Exothermic Reactions

Products of these chemical reactions have a lower potential energy than that of reactants.

Endothermic Reactions

The products of these reactions are of a high potential energy than that of reactants.

The rate of a reaction can be determined by the amount of product formed at a particular time period. Most of the times, products are stable forms of reactants. Reactants undergo chemical reactions in order to obtain a stable state.

Difference Between Reactants and Products

Figure 02: The Reaction-coordination diagram for the formation of methyl alcohol

In the above diagram, the reaction mixture is composed of only reactants at the beginning, and later on, there is an intermediate product which is the transition state of reactants, and then the final product is formed. Since the reactants have a higher potential energy than that of products in this particular reaction, energy is released as heat. But this energy is not considered as a product of the chemical reaction because it is not a substance.

Similarities Between Reactants and Products

  • Reactants and products can be atoms, ions or molecules.
  • Both reactants and products are present in the reaction mixture.
  • Reactants and products can be used to determine the rate of a chemical reaction.

Difference Between Reactants and Products

Definition

Reactants: Reactants are chemical species that act as the starting material of a chemical reaction.

Products: Products are substances formed as a result of a chemical reaction.

Consumption

Reactants: Reactants are consumed throughout the reaction.

Products: Products are not consumed in the reaction.

Concentration

Reactants: The amount of reactants present in the reaction mixture is decreased either rapidly or slowly during the reaction.

Products:  The amount of products present in the reaction mixture is increased either rapidly or slowly during the reaction.

Beginning

Reactants: At the beginning of the reaction, only reactants are present in the reaction mixture.

Products:  At the beginning of the reaction, products are not present in the reaction mixture.

End 

Reactants: At the end of the reaction, reactants may or may not present in the reaction mixture.

Products: At the end of the reaction, products are present in the reaction mixture.

Conclusion

Reactants and products are essential components of a chemical reaction. Reactants react with each other resulting in the major products and by-products. However, reactants react only according to the stoichiometry. Sometimes the amount of a particular reactant may not enough to react with the other reactant completely. In that case, both products and some of the excess reactant will be present at the end of the reaction. But here, the remaining reactant is not considered as a product of the reaction because it is not formed as a result of the reaction. Therefore, it is very important to understand the difference between reactants and products.

Reference:

1. Helmenstine, Ph.D. Anne Marie. “What Is a Product in Chemistry? Definition and Examples.” ThoughtCo. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 13 July 2017. 
2. Libretexts. “The Rate of a Chemical Reaction.” Chemistry LibreTexts. Libretexts, 21 July 2016. Web. Available here. 13 July 2017. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Ac com” By User:Slashme – Re-drawn from en:Image:Ac_com.png (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Rxn coordinate diagram 5″ By Chem540grp1f08 – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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