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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

IDEALGASESANDTHEIDEALGAS
LAW
Thispagelooksattheassumptionswhicharemadeinthe
KineticTheoryaboutidealgases,andtakesanintroductorylook
attheIdealGasLaw:pV=nRT.Thisisintendedonlyasan
introductionsuitableforchemistrystudentsataboutUKAlevel
standard(for1618yearolds),andsothereisnoattemptto
derivetheidealgaslawusingphysicsstylecalculations.

KineticTheoryassumptionsaboutidealgases
Thereisnosuchthingasanidealgas,ofcourse,butmany
gasesbehaveapproximatelyasiftheywereidealatordinary
workingtemperaturesandpressures.Realgasesaredealtwith
inmoredetailonanotherpage.
Theassumptionsare:
Gasesaremadeupofmoleculeswhichareinconstant
randommotioninstraightlines.
Themoleculesbehaveasrigidspheres.
Pressureisduetocollisionsbetweenthemoleculesand
thewallsofthecontainer.
Allcollisions,bothbetweenthemoleculesthemselves,and
betweenthemoleculesandthewallsofthecontainer,are
perfectlyelastic.(Thatmeansthatthereisnolossofkinetic
energyduringthecollision.)
Thetemperatureofthegasisproportionaltotheaverage
kineticenergyofthemolecules.
Andthentwoabsolutelykeyassumptions,becausethesearethe
twomostimportantwaysinwhichrealgasesdifferfromideal
gases:
Thereareno(orentirelynegligible)intermolecularforces
betweenthegasmolecules.

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

Thevolumeoccupiedbythemoleculesthemselvesis
entirelynegligiblerelativetothevolumeofthecontainer.

TheIdealGasEquation
Theidealgasequationis:

pV=nRT
Onthewhole,thisisaneasyequationtorememberanduse.
Theproblemsliealmostentirelyintheunits.Iamassuming
belowthatyouareworkinginstrictSIunits(asyouwillbeifyou
aredoingaUKbasedexam,forexample).

Exploringthevariousterms
Pressure,p
Pressureismeasuredinpascals,Pasometimesexpressedas
newtonspersquaremetre,Nm2.Thesemeanexactlythesame
thing.
BecarefulifyouaregivenpressuresinkPa(kilopascals).For
example,150kPais150,000Pa.Youmustmakethat
conversionbeforeyouusetheidealgasequation.
Shouldyouwanttoconvertfromotherpressuremeasurements:
1atmosphere=101,325Pa
1bar=100kPa=100,000Pa

Volume,V
Thisisthemostlikelyplaceforyoutogowrongwhenyouuse
thisequation.That'sbecausetheSIunitofvolumeisthecubic
metre,m3notcm3ordm3.
1m3=1000dm3=1,000,000cm3
Soifyouareinsertingvaluesofvolumeintotheequation,you
firsthavetoconvertthemintocubicmetres.

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

Youwouldhavetodivideavolumeindm3by1000,orincm3by
amillion.
Similarly,ifyouareworkingoutavolumeusingtheequation,
remembertocoverttheanswerincubicmetresintodm3orcm3if
youneedtothistimebymultiplyingbya1000oramillion.
Ifyougetthiswrong,youaregoingtoendupwithasillyanswer,
outbyafactorofathousandoramillion.Soitisusuallyfairly
obviousifyouhavedonesomethingwrong,andyoucancheck
backagain.

Numberofmoles,n
Thisiseasy,ofcourseitisjustanumber.Youalreadyknow
thatyouworkitoutbydividingthemassingramsbythemassof
onemoleingrams.
Youwillmostoftenusetheidealgasequationbyfirstmakingthe
substitutiontogive:

Idon'trecommendthatyouremembertheidealgasequationin
thisform,butyoumustbeconfidentthatyoucanconvertitinto
thisform.

Thegasconstant,R
AvalueforRwillbegivenyouifyouneedit,oryoucanlookit
upinadatasource.TheSIvalueforRis8.31441JK1mol1.
Note:Youmaycomeacrossothervaluesforthiswith
differentunits.Acommonlyusedoneinthepastwas82.053
cm3atmK1mol1.Theunitstellyouthatthevolumewould
beincubiccentimetresandthepressureinatmospheres.
UnfortunatelytheunitsintheSIversionaren'tsoobviously
helpful.

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

Thetemperature,T
Thetemperaturehastobeinkelvin.Don'tforgettoadd273if
youaregivenatemperatureindegreesCelsius.

Usingtheidealgasequation
Calculationsusingtheidealgasequationareincludedinmy
calculationsbook(seethelinkattheverybottomofthepage),
andIcan'trepeatthemhere.Thereare,however,acoupleof
calculationsthatIhaven'tdoneinthebookwhichgivea
reasonableideaofhowtheidealgasequationworks.
Themolarvolumeatstp
Ifyouhavedonesimplecalculationsfromequations,youhave
probablyusedthemolarvolumeofagas.
1moleofanygasoccupies22.4dm3atstp(standard
temperatureandpressure,takenas0Cand1atmosphere
pressure).Youmayalsohaveusedavalueof24.0dm3atroom
temperatureandpressure(takenasabout20Cand1
atmosphere).
Thesefiguresareactuallyonlytrueforanidealgas,andwe'll
havealookatwheretheycomefrom.

Wecanusetheidealgasequationtocalculatethevolumeof1
moleofanidealgasat0Cand1atmospherepressure.
First,wehavetogettheunitsright.
0Cis273K.T=273K
1atmosphere=101325Pa.p=101325Pa
Weknowthatn=1,becausewearetryingtocalculatethe
volumeof1moleofgas.
And,finally,R=8.31441JK1mol1.
Slottingallofthisintotheidealgasequationandthen
rearrangingitgives:

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

Andfinally,becauseweareinterestedinthevolumeincubic
decimetres,youhavetoremembertomultiplythisby1000to
convertfromcubicmetresintocubicdecimetres.
Themolarvolumeofanidealgasistherefore22.4dm3atstp.
And,ofcourse,youcouldredothiscalculationtofindthevolume
of1moleofanidealgasatroomtemperatureandpressureor
anyothertemperatureandpressure.

Findingtherelativeformulamassofagasfromitsdensity
Thisisaboutastrickyasitgetsusingtheidealgasequation.
Thedensityofethaneis1.264gdm3at20Cand1atmosphere.
Calculatetherelativeformulamassofethane.
Thedensityvaluemeansthat1dm3ofethaneweighs1.264g.
Again,beforewedoanythingelse,gettheawkwardunitssorted
out.
Apressureof1atmosphereis101325Pa.
Thevolumeof1dm3hastobeconvertedtocubicmetres,by
dividingby1000.Wehaveavolumeof0.001m3.
Thetemperatureis293K.
Nowputallthenumbersintotheformoftheidealgasequation
whichletsyouworkwithmasses,andrearrangeittoworkoutthe
massof1mole.

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

Themassof1moleofanythingissimplytherelativeformula
massingrams.
Sotherelativeformulamassofethaneis30.4,to3sigfigs.

Now,ifyouadduptherelativeformulamassofethane,C2H6
usingaccuratevaluesofrelativeatomicmasses,yougetan
answerof30.07to4significantfigures.Whichisdifferentfrom
ouranswersowhat'swrong?
Therearetwopossibilities.
ThedensityvalueIhaveusedmaynotbecorrect.Ididthe
sumagainusingaslightlydifferentvaluequotedata
differenttemperaturefromanothersource.ThistimeIgot
ananswerof30.3.Sothedensityvaluesmaynotbe
entirelyaccurate,buttheyarebothgivingmuchthesame
sortofanswer.
Ethaneisn'tanidealgas.Well,ofcourseitisn'tanideal
gasthere'snosuchthing!However,assumingthatthe
densityvaluesareclosetocorrect,theerroriswithin1%of
whatyouwouldexpect.Soalthoughethaneisn'texactly
behavinglikeanidealgas,itisn'tfaroff.
Ifyouneedtoknowaboutrealgases,nowisagoodtimetoread
aboutthem.

Questionstotestyourunderstanding
Ifthisisthefirstsetofquestionsyouhavedone,pleasereadthe
introductorypagebeforeyoustart.YouwillneedtousetheBACKBUTTON
onyourbrowsertocomebackhereafterwards.
questionsonidealgases

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Ideal gases and the ideal gas law: pV = nRT

answers

Wherewouldyouliketogonow?
Toexplorerealgases...
Tothekinetictheorymenu...
TothePhysicalChemistrymenu...
ToMainMenu...

JimClark2010(modifiedOctober2013)

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