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Chapter 14 Chemical Kinetics

The gases, liquids, solids, and solutions that you learned to describe quantitatively in Chapter 10 "Gases", Chapter 11 "Liquids", Chapter 12 "Solids", and Chapter 13 "Solutions", respectively, are systems whose chemical compositions do not change with time. Now we will present a quantitative description of a far more common situation in which the chemical composition of a system is not constant with time. An example of such a system is the stratosphere, where chemicals rising from the ground level initiate reactions that lead to decreases in the concentration of stratospheric ozone—the so-called ozone hole. (For more information about the ozone hole, see Chapter 3 "Chemical Reactions", Section 3.6 "Chemical Reactions in the Atmosphere".) Another example involves the production of polyethylene, in which the properties of the plastic are determined by the relative speeds of events that occur during the polymerization reaction. (For more information about the polymerization reaction, see Chapter 12 "Solids", Section 12.8 "Polymeric Solids".) The techniques you are about to learn will enable you to describe the speed of many such changes and predict how the composition of each system will change in response to changing conditions.

The Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, a chemical reaction that oscillates in time and space. When a very thin layer of an acidic solution containing potassium bromate (KBrO3), cerium ammonium nitrate [(NH4)2Ce(NO3)6], malonic acid (HO2CCH2CO2H), and an indicator is poured into a shallow dish, local fluctuations in the concentration of the reactants and a complex series of reactions cause striking geometric patterns of concentric circles and spirals to propagate across the dish.

We begin Chapter 14 "Chemical Kinetics" with a discussion of chemical kineticsThe study of reaction rates., which is the study of reaction ratesThe changes in concentrations of reactants and products with time., or the changes in the concentrations of reactants and products with time. As you learn about the factors that affect reaction rates, the methods chemists use for reporting and calculating those rates, and the clues that reaction rates provide about events at the molecular level, you will also discover the answers to questions such as the following: How can normally stable substances such as flour and coal cause devastating explosions? How do archaeologists use isotopic composition to estimate the ages of ancient artifacts? How do the catalysts used in catalytic converters, some laundry detergents, and meat tenderizers work?


Chemical kinetics is the study of reaction rates, the changes in the concentrations of reactants and products with time.