Chemical Instability

Definition - What does Chemical Instability mean?

Chemical instability is the reactive and decomposition ability of substances or species. Chemical instability, when used in the technical sense, means thermodynamic instability of a chemical system. Compounds or mixtures that are chemically unstable are often called labile.

Chemical instability also causes corrosion of materials because of matter's preference to stay in a stable condition.

Corrosionpedia explains Chemical Instability

A chemical substance is said to be stable if it is not particularly reactive in the environment or during normal use, and retains its useful properties on the timescale of its expected usefulness. In this meaning, the material is said to be unstable if it can corrode, decompose, polymerize, burn or explode under the conditions of anticipated use or normal environmental conditions.

Unstable chemicals tend to undergo exothermic unimolecular decompositions. Variations in the structure of the related chemical species of this kind generally affects the energy of the transition states for these decompositions less than they affect the stability of the decomposing chemical species. Chemically unstable materials show less resistance to corrosion.

Instability refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to dangerous decomposition. Ethers, liquid paraffin and olefins can form unstable peroxides on exposure to air and light. Because these chemicals are packaged in an air atmosphere, peroxides can form even if their containers have not been opened. They are very unstable, flammable, and extremely sensitive to friction, impact, and heat.

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