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Chemical Equilibrium


Students will understand that

chemical equilibrium is a dynamic
process at the molecular level.
Students will demonstrate their
understanding of this concept by
comparing container trade with
chemical reactions and solving
equilibrium problems involving the
equilibrium constant (K).
California Content Standard

9. Chemical equilibrium is a dynamic process at the

molecular level. As a basis for understanding this
b. Students know equilibrium is established when
forward and reverse reaction rates are equal.
c. Students know how to write and calculate an
equilibrium constant expression for a reaction.

The Port of Long Beach is one of the world's busiest

seaports, a leading gateway for trade between the
United States and Asia. East Asian trade accounts for
more than 90% of the shipments through the port.
In today's global economy, the effort involved in
transporting goods between manufacturers, retailers
and consumers across the planet is remarkable in its
scale and sophistication. The enormous quantities and
economic value of cargo being transported through
seaports, such as the Port of Long Beach, demands a
flexible, efficient and well-organized supply chain.
Today's system is made possible through the use of metal
cargo containers, which revolutionized the maritime
industry soon after they were introduced in the late
1950s. Cargo containers act as individual storage units
that can be switched quickly between ships, trucks and
trains. Cargo containers hold just about any consumer
item -- shoes, computers, auto parts or frozen seafood.
In this lesson, students will analyze data regarding
container trade in TEU’s and compare that to chemical

*One TEU is a Twenty-foot Equivalent Container.

Anticipatory Set

Can you think of situations in science, economics, and

politics that have a balancing of competing influences?
• Examples include:
– Science
• Homeostasis—the ability of an open system to regulate
its internal environment.
• Mechanical equilibrium—the state in which the sum of
the forces is zero.
– Economics
• Equilibrium price—the price at which supply equals
Lesson Input

• When you hear the word Static, what comes to

– List a few words that you associate with static.

• When you hear the word Dynamic, what comes to

– List a few words that you associate with

• What do you think Static means?

• What do you think Dynamic means?

• A simplistic definition of Static is unchanging.

• A simplistic definition of Dynamic is in motion,
Container Trade in TEU’s

Take a look at the following slide depicting

container trade through the port of Long Beach
and consider the three questions that follow.
Container Trade in TEU’s

1. Are the empty containers inbound or outbound?

How do you know?
2. What is static about container trade with East
3. What is dynamic about container trade with East

If you look at the data you can see that container

trade between East Asia and the Port of Long
Beach has reached equilibrium.

– Equilibrium does not imply that the number of

containers in East Asian ports are equal to the
number of containers in Long Beach.

If the number of containers in each port are

not equal, then what is equal in this

Let’s take another look at the data and find out.

Data analysis for the month of
• Inbound
– There were approximately 261,000 loaded
inbound TEU’s for the month of January.

• Outbound
– There were approximately 122,000 loaded
outbound TEU’s and approximately 138,000
empty TEU’s for the month of January.

261,000 ͌ 122,000 + 138,000

Dynamic and Static

• Equilibrium is a dynamic process. Containers

continually move between ports. However, the
number of containers at each port remains
relatively static due to the importing and
exporting of the same number of containers on a
monthly basis.

Take a look at the following four slides that show

the movement of containers between East Asia
and the port of Long Beach.
Oversees container transport
Chemical Equilibrium

• Chemical equilibrium, like the port analogy, is a

highly dynamic process at the molecular level.
Chemical equilibrium only appears to be static due
to the unchanging concentrations of reactants and

Dynamic: the chemical reaction continues in

the forward and reverse directions. Nitrogen
and hydrogen react to form ammonia and
ammonia breaks into hydrogen and nitrogen at
the same rate.
N2 + H2  NH3

Static: at equilibrium the concentrations of

reactants and products remain unchanged
The Equilibrium Expression

The equilibrium condition follows this general

description for a chemical reaction where lower
case letters are the coefficients used to balance
the equation.

K = [C]c[D]d

aA + bB  cC + dD

Brackets [ ] indicate concentration in mol/L

The Equilibrium Constant

At a constant temperature, the equilibrium

constant (K) does not change.

Consider the following data for a set of equilibrium

positions for the reaction between hydrogen and
nitrogen to form ammonia.
Experimental results at a constant

N2(g) + H2 (g)  NH3(g)

During an experiment at a constant temperature, the
initial concentrations of [N2], [H2], and [NH3] were
1.00M, 1.00M and 0 respectively.
At equilibrium the concentrations were found to be
[N2] = 0.875 M
[H2] = 0.598 M
[NH3] = 0.105 M

What is the value of the equilibrium constant

Solving for the equilibrium
constant (K)

N2(g) + 3H2 (g)  2NH3(g)

0.875 M 0.598 M 0.105 M
2. Write an equilibrium expression

K = [NH3]2

5. Use the concentrations at equilibrium to find K.

K = (0.105)2
K = 0.0589
Application of Equilibrium
constant K
What is the concentration of ammonia when the
equilibrium concentrations of N2 and H2 are 0.231
M and 0.629 M respectively?

N2(g) + 3H2 (g)  2NH3(g)

0.231 M 0.629 M ?

*Remember that K was found to be 0.0589 for this

reaction at the temperature given.
Solving this problem

N2(g) + 3H2 (g)  2NH3(g)

0.231 M 0.629 M ?

Algebraically rearrange this equation to solve for [NH3]

and plug in the data to find the molar concentration of

K = [NH3]2

[NH3] = K [N2][H2]3

[NH3] = (0.0589)(0.231)(0.629)3

[NH3] = .00339 M
Guided Practice problems

Write equilibrium expressions for these reactions.

2SO2(g) + O2(g)  2SO3(g)

K= [SO3]2

4NH3(g) + 7O2(g)  4NO2(g) +


K = [NO2]4[H2O]6
Practice problems

Calculate the value for the equilibrium constant K

for the reaction below when the equilibrium
concentrations are given below.

1.50M 1.25M 3.50M

2SO2(g) + O2(g)  2SO3(g)

K = 4.36
Practice problem cont.

What is the equilibrium concentration of O2 when the

concentrations of SO2 and SO3 are 2.27 M and 3.21
M respectively?

[O2] = 0.459 M
Closing Activity

Ask students:
What is static about chemical equilibrium?

What makes chemical equilibrium a highly dynamic


Have students write a 1 or 2 paragraph response to

the following prompt.
• Explain the similarities and differences
between container trade and chemical