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Reaction Kinetics

and the
Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution

Reaction kinetics is the study of the

rate of chemical reactions
The rate of any chemical reaction will vary as a result of many
factors. Specific to this part of the chemistry syllabus, we
will investigate four of these factors:

Surface area of reactants

Temperature, concentration and COLLISION THEORY

What is temperature?
Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the
particles in a system. As we will see later this distribution of
energies follows a pattern.

What determines whether a collision leads to a reaction?

When a reaction occurs it is because two reactants with
sufficient energy have collided and caused a reaction. This
requires the correct kinetic energy in the direction of the
collision and, quite obviously, the correct molecules.

Temperature, energy and the whole system

Whether a reaction takes place or not for any system

depends on:

The energy of the colliding particles

The number of collisions.

How could you increase the energy and the number of collisions?

For any given temperature, we know that the molecules

will have a range of kinetic energies. These will be
distributed between two extremes and the range
is known as the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution

Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution

James Clerk Maxwell

Statistical theory 1859

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann

Applied proof 1871

A typical Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution is shown below


The shape is characteristic of the Maxwell-Boltzmann

distribution. Note that no particle may have zero energy.
the particles with sufficient energy to react are those found
above the line marked EA , the ACTIVATION ENERGY.
The activation energy is measured in kJ/mol.

Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution
What are the axes A and I?
A = number of particles OR proportion of the volume
I = energy of the particle OR velocity of the particle
Which line shows a higher temperature?
If E is the activation energy, what do you think
D might represent?

Look at your textbook Page 93 Figure 4

This shows a typical energy diagram for an exothermic reaction
The activation energy represents a transitional state where reacting particles are
combined essentially forming a temporary state before rearranging to form
their final products.
EVEN THOUGH this reaction is EXOTHERMIC and gives out energy. Some
energy has to be provided, via the kinetic energy of the particles to initiate the
This figure is called an ENERGY PROFILE.
The activation energy can be thought of as an ENERGY BARRIER.
Think about combustion. Few chemicals spontaneously combust they need
energy input to initiate the reaction.

The effect of temperature on reaction rates


An increase in temperature of 10K (= 10 C) will

This general rule holds for many reactions and situations.

The effect of concentration on reaction rates

Units of rate = mol dm-3 s -1

An increase in concentration will result an an

increase of rate due to more collisions

The effect of surface area on reaction rates

If a solid, for example is in blocks or grains, it will
take time before all the solid is available for reaction.
The key factor in this case will be the surface area
accessible for reaction.

The effect of catalysts on reaction rates

Catalysts alter the rate of reaction, but remain
unchanged themselves. The activation energy
for the reaction is lowered by providing an
alternative reaction pathway - shown next

The effect of catalysis on an energy profile diagram

The Activation Energy
required for the catalysed
route is lower.
The rate is therefore
increased with the
catalyst present
Catalysis does not alter
the quantity of
product formed.

Read through pages 208 to 209

Answer questions 1 -3