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Chemical reactions occur when atoms rearrange.

Methane (CH4) and oxygen (O2) (reactants) react to form carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) (products) Notice how atoms have switched partners or rearranged.

If energy was released, it means that the products store less energy than the reactants. This is an exothermic reaction.




Energy is released

If energy is absorbed, it means that the products store more energy than the reactants. This is an endothermic reaction.

Energy is absorbed


Click on the Hyperlink below to view the full video with audio of this very fast exothermic reaction.
Reaction between chlorine, Cl2 (green gas) and sodium metal, produces NaCl, salt

2 Na Cl2 2 NaCl

When the oxygen and methane molecules collide, the collision has to be STRONG enough to break the bonds that already exist. If the collision does not have enough energy, the reaction does not happen. At room temperature molecules of methane gas and oxygen collide but not STRONGLY enough for the reaction to happen.

The minimum amount of energy necessary to get a reaction going is called the activation energy, EA. All reactions have a certain amount of activation energy that must be overcome for the reaction to occur

Applet showing collision of particles with different energy (<EA and > or = EA) and orientation.

Before the reaction gets to the lower level of the products, it must get over the hump of the activation energy.

For the reaction to get to the higher energy level of the products, the activation energy must be supplied and stored in the bonds of the products.

The greater the required activation energy of a reaction, the slower the reaction will proceed. If the required activation energy is lowered, a reaction will proceed faster.


A catalyst is a substance that makes a reaction go faster by lowering the required activation energy.

A catalyst IS NOT changed or used up in a reaction.


The blue line represents a reaction without a catalyst.

The red line represents a reaction where a catalyst was added. The activation energy is lower so the reaction will go faster.


Hydrogen peroxide H2O2 decomposes by itself into hydrogen gas and water.

2 H 2O2 2 H 2O O2
This reaction normally happens VERY SLOWLY. If a catalyst such as potassium iodide ( KI) is added, the reaction occurs much faster. Click Here for Reaction Video

Living organisms also have catalysts that speed up reactions. These catalysts are called enzymes.

Enzymes in the blood catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. That is why applying hydrogen peroxide on a wound makes it foamy.


increases the kinetic energy (energy of motion )more collisions means faster reaction rate

more reactants (solute and solvent) means faster reaction rate

Increase in pressure decreases the volume and therefore more collisions means faster reaction rate

decreases/lowers activation energy means faster reaction rate

Surface Area
Greater surface area means more collisions for a faster rate reaction

Optimal pH means faster rate of reaction

Multiple Choice (MC) Question

Catalysts may reduce the amount of activation energy required for a chemical reaction to occur. Platinum (Pt) is a catalyst that is used in the catalytic converters in automobiles. In the graphs below, pathway x is a solid line representing the uncatalyzed reaction. The dotted line shows the catalyzed reaction. Which graph best illustrates the changes in a reaction when the catalyst reduces the amount of energy required?

Rationale Question


Catalysts are not used up in a reaction!

One function of cell membrane proteins is the active transport of material across the membrane. What does this do for the cell?
A. The transport proteins only allow dissolved salts into the cell. B. The transport proteins only allow complex external proteins into the cell. C. The transport proteins regulate quantities of internal chemicals. D. The transport proteins allow water to flow in and out of the cell easily.
What do you need to know in order to answer this question?


To produce sulfuric acid (H2SO4), one industrial plant uses the contact process, which consists of several reactions. The initial reaction in this process uses sulfur dioxide (SO2 ) and oxygen (O2 ) in the presence of vanadium oxide (V2 O5) pellets to produce sulfur trioxide (SO3) as shown below. V2O 5 Pellets 2S02 (g) + O2 (g) ---------------- 2SO3 (g)
Sulfur Dioxide Oxygen Sulfur trioxide

Part A In the reaction between SO2 and O2, what is the role of the V2O5
pellets? The vanadium oxide pellets serve as a catalyst in the reaction between SO2 and O2.

Part B Explain what the industrial chemist could do to increase the efficiency of the reaction.

To increase the reactions efficiency, the chemists could increase the temperature at which the reaction occurs.


Magnesium (Mg) in solid form can chemically react with chlorine(Cl2) gas to form magnesium chloride (MgCl2). This reaction is exothermic. Mg + Cl2 ------------- MgCl2 + Heat In the reaction between Mg and Cl2 , what determines how quickly the reaction will occur? Explain your answer.

The rate of a reaction depends on the surface area of the Mg and the concentration of the Cl2 . Also, the pressure and temperature of the reactants will have an effect on the rate of reaction. The number of molecules interacting and the energy in those molecules will determine the rate of reaction.