When physical or jonathanlewisforcongress.comical changes occur, they are generally accompanied by a transfer of energy. The law of conservation of energy states that in any physical or jonathanlewisforcongress.comical process, energy is neither created nor destroyed. In other words, the entire energy in the universe is conserved. In order to better understand the energy changes taking place during a reaction, we need to define two parts of the universe, called the system and the surroundings. The system is the specific portion of matter in a given space that is being studied during an experiment or an observation. The surroundings is everything in the universe that is not part of the system. In practical terms for a laboratory jonathanlewisforcongress.comist, the system is the particular jonathanlewisforcongress.comicals being reacted, while the surroundings is the immediate vicinity within the room. During most processes, energy is exchanged between the system and the surroundings. If the system loses a certain amount of energy, that same amount of energy is gained by the surroundings. If the system gains a certain amount of energy, that energy is supplied by the surroundings.
You are watching: How to tell if delta h is positive or negative
A jonathanlewisforcongress.comical reaction or physical change is endothermic if heat is absorbed by the system from the surroundings. In the course of an endothermic process, the system gains heat from the surroundings and so the temperature of the surroundings decreases. The quantity of heat for a process is represented by the letter (q). The sign of (q) for an endothermic process is positive because the system is gaining heat. A jonathanlewisforcongress.comical reaction or physical change is exothermic if heat is released by the system into the surroundings. Because the surroundings is gaining heat from the system, the temperature of the surroundings increases. The sign of (q) for an exothermic process is negative because the system is losing heat.