Definitions for chain reaction

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word chain reaction

Random House Webster's College Dictionary

chain′ reac`tion(n.)

  1. a nuclear or chemical reaction in which the reaction products in turn trigger additional reactions.

    Category: Physics

  2. a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.

Origin of chain reaction:


chain′ re•ac`tor(n.)

Princeton's WordNet

  1. chain reaction(noun)

    a series of chemical reactions in which the product of one is a reactant in the next

  2. chain reaction(noun)

    a self-sustaining nuclear reaction; a series of nuclear fissions in which neutrons released by splitting one atom leads to the splitting of others


  1. chain reaction(Noun)

    A nuclear reaction in which particles produced by the fission of one atom trigger fissions of other atoms.

  2. chain reaction(Noun)

    A series of events, each one causing the next.


  1. Chain reaction

    A chain reaction is a sequence of reactions where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. In a chain reaction, positive feedback leads to a self-amplifying chain of events. Chain reactions are one way in which systems which are in thermodynamic non-equilibrium can release energy or increase entropy in order to reach a state of higher entropy. For example, a system may not be able to reach a lower energy state by releasing energy into the environment, because it is hindered in some way from taking the path that will result in the energy release. If a reaction results in a small energy release making way for more energy releases in an expanding chain, then the system will typically collapse explosively until much or all of the stored energy has been released. Since chain reactions result in energy transformation into forms associated with larger amounts of entropy. In accordance with the laws of thermodynamics, the reactions cannot be reversed. A macrosopic metaphor for chain reactions is thus a snowball causing larger snowfall until finally an avalanche results. This is a result of stored gravitational potential energy seeking a path of release over friction. Chemically, the equivalent to a snow avalanche is a spark causing a forest fire. In nuclear physics, a single stray neutron can result in an prompt critical event, which may be finally be energetic enough for a nuclear reactor meltdown or a nuclear explosion.


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