Chemical Equilibrium

543 words | 2 page(s)

Even if chemistry is not an individual’s chosen profession or field of interest, it must be acknowledged this ancient science is definitely fascinating. Dating back to prehistoric times, the first known chemical reaction was fire. Of course humanity at the time was oblivious to the fact this was a result of science rather than the work of some divine being, but as the centuries wore on, chemistry was defined, refined and expanded to what we now know it as today. One of the two main premises of chemistry are chemical reactions, which simply refers to how and when something transforms. Chemical equilibrium is a type of chemical reaction. Specifically, it is when a chemical reaction occurs in a container or environment where once the reaction is complete the substance created will remain constant as long as it is left to its own devices. Since none of the materials are emitted during this reaction the amount of the components in the substance alter as some are expended and some are transition to another form. Therefore, chemical equilibrium is when there is no possibility for the amount of the reactants or the products to change unless they are disturbed (Burdge, p. 655-95) (Strong, p. 618).

Chemical equilibrium is achieved when the reaction is driven or guided toward that point by certain forces at work in nature. To be more concise, equilibrium is reached when a “happy medium” is determined between the energy within the chemical bonds of stable molecules and its potential to be released or become less concentrated. In most instances, this stability or equilibrium occurs when the forward reaction proceeds at the same rate as the reverse reaction. The rates of reaction of the forward and backward reactions are generally not zero, but equal. Therefore, there are no overall alterations in the chemical compositions of the reactants and products. This instance is referred to as dynamic equilibrium and it is also important to note, when producing equations for chemical equilibriums of this nature, it does matter which comes first, the reactant or the product, because the combination always produces the same substance. So bear in mind the components in a chemical reaction will always behave to bring it as close to or to equilibrium as possible and it will always remain that way without outside interference (Burdge, p. 655-95).

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As a concept, chemical equilibrium was not discovered until around 1803 by Bertholiet, when the discerned there were some chemical reactions that could be reversed. For equilibrium to exist, the forward and backward rates must be equal, but that does not necessarily explain why something reaches that point. Also, both forward and reverse reactions can be expected to happen, but when equilibrium is reached large amounts of the reactants and products are available, then the reaction is referred to as incomplete or reversible. Technically speaking, all chemical reactions are reversible, but this type of behavior may not be detected if the amount of the products in the substance is minute or if the reverse reaction is extremely torpid (Graves, p. 61-7).

  • Burdge, Julia, R. “Chemical Equilibrium.” Chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2014. p 655-95. Print.
  • Graves, Palmer. “Chemical Equilibrium.” Chemistry II Lab Manual. Spring: 2014. 61-7. Print.
  • Strong, Lawrence, E. “Chemical Equilibrium.” Journal of Chemical Education. 1988. 65 (7). Print.

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