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)

    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.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,259
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    erk.

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

    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.
     
  4. Thank you.
     
  5. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,259
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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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