Resonance Structures Chemistry: What is Potential Energy?

  • #1
I was reading this article from Wikipedia on resonance structures:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonance_(chemistry [Broken])

What I do not understand is, what is meant by potential energy in terms of chemistry? In physics, potential energy is defined by location in a force field. What is it that determines potential energy in a compound or molecule? Is it the position of electrons to other electrons, electrons to nuclei? How does having lower potential energy make a molecule more stable? Explain in layman's terms please.
 
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  • #2
Simon Bridge
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Explain in layman's terms please.
erk.

Chemical potential energy is related to electromagnetic potential energy... it's just that molecules tend to be pretty complicated.

How does having lower potential energy make a molecule more stable?
By analogy:
You can understand that a moon orbiting closer to a planet has a lower gravitational potential energy is also more stable - it takes a larger random knock to push that moon out of orbit? It's the same for the atoms in a molecule.
 
  • #3
Thank you.
 
  • #4
Simon Bridge
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No worries - so long as you don't try using that to draw new conclusions you'll be fine.
In a bit some of the others will pop up and tell you where I'm taking horrible liberties in the name of being layman-friendly ;)
 

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