Science 101: Why Baking a Cake Doesn’t Represent a Physical Change

Although it may not appear so on the surface, baking a cake involves practising chemistry. The mixture transforms from a liquid into a fluffy yet solid cake when it is placed in the oven.

Many people first mistakenly believe that this is a physical change, but it is actually a chemical shift. Building a foundation for science and chemistry starts with an understanding of the distinctions between chemical and physical changes.

A physical change is what?

When something’s appearance changes without affecting the manner it’s made, a physical change has taken place. Atomic bonds are all still completely intact. The substance may have a distinct appearance, but its chemical composition is the same.

How to Determine whether a Chemical Change Occurred

There are a few signs you should watch out for to determine whether a chemical reaction occurred:

A shift in colour

A shift in the temperature

development of a precipitate

emergence of gas

emitting light

If you bake a cake, you might observe that the colour darkens (changes) while it bakes. The temperature changes, the ingredients release gas bubbles, and the result is a fluffy cake. These all point to a chemical shift that has occurred.

Illustrations of Chemical Change

Chemical alterations cannot be undone. Once the cake has been baked, it cannot be reverted to its original state by lowering the temperature. Other instances of irreversible processes that point to a chemical shift include:

Metallic rust

a wood fire

milk separating

preparing an egg

Illustrations of Physical Change

The substance doesn’t alter physically during a change. Just the shape, colour, or form of it has changed, giving it a different appearance. Examples comprise:

ripping a page into pieces

Breaking a glass

ice cubes melting

heating up water

Each substance’s chemical makeup is unaltered in each of these situations. Once it breaks, glass remains glass. Whether it is frozen or turns into steam, water is still water.

How to Recognize Chemical Changes from Physical Changes

It is not always simple to distinguish between the two categories of changes. Because molecular modifications occur in the course of chemical reactions, it is impossible to see the atom-to-atom bonds with the human eye. In some cases, you need to do a thorough examination to determine the type of change that took place. If, however, only the outward manifestation altered and your original elements can be recovered, a bodily alteration most likely took place.


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