Rates of reaction
The rate of a reaction can be measured by the rate at which a reactant is used up, or the rate at which a product is formed.
The temperature, concentration, pressure of reacting gases, surface area of reacting solids, and the use of catalysts, are all factors which affect the rate of a reaction.
Chemical reactions can only happen if reactant particles collide with enough energy. The more frequently particles collide, and the greater the proportion of collisions with enough energy, the greater the rate of reaction.
Different reactions can happen at different rates. Reactions that happen slowly have a low rate of reaction. Reactions that happen quickly have a high rate of reaction. For example, the chemical weathering of rocks is a very slow reaction: it has a low rate of reaction. Explosions are very fast reactions: they have a high rate of reaction.
There are two ways to measure the rate of a reaction:
The method chosen depends on the reaction being studied. Sometimes it is easier to measure the change in the amount of a reactant that has been used up; sometimes it is easier to measure the change in the amount of product that has been produced.
The measurement itself depends on the nature of the reactant or product:
It is usual to record the mass or total volume at regular intervals and plot a graph. The readings go on the vertical axis, and the time goes on the horizontal axis.
For example, if 24 cm3 of hydrogen gas is produced in two minutes, the mean rate of reaction = 24 ÷ 2 = 12 cm3 hydrogen / min.
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