Skip to Content

Coal: Matter and Energy

Student Directions

As you know, when coal is burned in a stove, heat is released into the surrounding area (for instance, a room). Using what you know about box-and-arrow diagrams and and matter (carbon) and energy flow (movement) in ecosystems, address the following:

1. Burning of coal: Below is a box-and-arrow diagram showing conversion of energy in coal to energy in the form of heat in the room. Discuss the diagram below with your group and make sure you understand what it is meant to show. Be sure to discuss what the phrase "is converted to" means. Write down any questions.

ENERGY FLOW DIAGRAMS

When coal is burned, the

2. Formation of coal: Coal is a fossilized form of plant matter; coal deposits were formed about 350 million years ago when plants living then were preserved in mud where there was little or no oxygen. Where did the energy in the coal come from? Draw a box and arrow diagram like the one above showing the source of the energy for coal in the box on the left and the process involved in this energy transformation? below the arrow.

Write down any questions or confusions you have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Now, work with box-and-arrow diagrams showing transformations of carbon in the processes? of coal formation and burning. First, discuss the representation directly below with your group to make sure you understand what it is meant to show. Pay special attention to the phrase "is transformed into" to make sure you understand exactly what this means. Write down any questions.

CARBON FLOW DIAGRAMS

When coal is burned:

4. Formation of coal: Where did the carbon in the coal come from in the first place? Again, write the source of the carbon in the left-side box and the process below the arrow. Coal is the largest worldwide source* of CO2 and thus contributes greatly to climate change. Therefore, the molecules of CO2 now in our atmosphere were last in the world's atmosphere when? Write down any questions you have.

* Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

5. Comparison of conversion of energy and transformation of carbon:

  • The law of conservation of energy? states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.
  • The law of conservation of matter? is that matter cannot be created or destroyed, although it may be rearranged.

Using the coal diagrams above as examples, explain these two important laws of physics and chemistry.

AttachmentSize
3. CD_Coal.doc39 KB