Chemical Equilibria

Equilibrium Constant


For the hypothetical chemical reaction

a A + b B c C + d D

the equilibrium constant is defined as

KC = [C]c [D]d

[A]a [B]b

The notation [A] signifies the molar concentration of species A. An alternative expression for the equilibrium constant involves partial pressures.

KP = PCc PDd


Note that the expression for the equilibrium constant includes only solutes and gases; pure solids and liquids do not appear in the expression. For example, the equilibrium expression for the reaction

CaH2 (s) + 2 H2O (g) Ca(OH)2 (s) + 2 H2 (g)


KC = [H2]2


Observe that the gas-phase species H2O and H2 appear in the expression but the solids CaH2 and Ca(OH)2 do not appear.

The equilibrium constant is most readily determined by allowing a reaction to reach equilibrium, measuring the concentrations of the various solution-phase or gas-phase reactants and products, and substituting these values into the Law of Mass Action.


Objective: Determine the equilibrium constant for a chemical reaction.

Part 1.

In this part of the experiment, the following reaction is studied.

NaHCO3 (s) ARROWS.GIF NaOH (s) + CO2 (g)

The steps in the experiment are those that would be performed in practice in the laboratory:

  1. A 1 gram portion of sodium hydrogen carbonate powder is placed in the glass bulb
  2. The bulb is evacuated (that is, all gases are removed from the flask)
  3. The bulb is heated to 800 K and the reaction is allowed to reach equilibrium

At room temperature, the reaction does not proceed at a measurable rate. At 800 K, however, the rate of reaction is relatively fast and equilibrium is quickly achieved.

A manometer is attached to the bulb to measure the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the bulb. Assume the sodium hydrogen carbonate occupies a negligible fraction of the volume of the 500 mL bulb. Also assume that the connections to the manometer have a negligible volume. (The stopcock to the bulb is always open, because the bulb is always open to the manometer so that the pressure may be continually monitored. Both air and carbon dioxide are colorless gases.)

Use the experimental data to calculate KP and KC for this reaction. In this part of the experiment, the value KP and KC are provided to permit you to check your work.

Reset Experiment
Add Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
Evacuate Bulb
Heat System

Show KP
Show KC

Part 2.

This part of the experiment is identical to Part 1 except the values of KP and KC are not provided and the reaction under investigation is

Ca(OH)2 (s) ARROWS.GIF CaO (s) + H2O (g)

The steps in the experiment are the same as those in Part 1. In this case, the equilibrium is studied at 700 K. Determine the value of KP and KC . Make sure you show all the data and your calculations.

Reset Experiment
Add Calcium Hydroxide Powder
Evacuate Bulb
Heat System

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