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Speed Of Reaction

By the end of the topic, students should be able to:

□ Describe a suitable method for investigating the effect

of a given variable (e.g. concentration) on the speed of
□ Interpret the results of a reaction rate experiment (e.g.
as graphs or as a table of readings).
□ Describe how concentration, pressure, particle size and
temperature affect the rate of a reaction.
□ Explain the above four effects in terms of collisions
between the reacting particles.
□ Describe the features of catalysts (including enzymes).
□ Explain the meaning of activation energy and how
catalysed reactions have lower activation energies.

Please tick in the box if you can do any of the above.

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Speed of Reaction
• Different chemicals reactions take place at different
• Table 1 below gives some other examples of reactions
that proceed at different speeds.
Very fast Moderately fast Slow
• Explosion of • Reactions of • Rusting of iron
petrol-air metals or in air.
mixture carbonates • Reaction of
• Precipitation with dilute magnesium
reactions acids. with cold water.
• Fermentation
(conversion of
fruit juice into
Table 1 Different reactions proceed at different speeds.

Measuring the speed of reaction

The speed of a reaction can be found by measuring these
quantities at regular time intervals:
a) the mass of the reactant that remains
b) the volume of the products that was produced

The method chosen depends upon the reaction being

studied. It is usual to record the mass or total volume at
regular intervals and plot a graph. The readings go on the
vertical axis and the time goes on the horizontal axis.

Measuring the speed of reaction from changes in

This method works best for reactions which produce gases
such as carbon dioxide. For example, the speed of reaction
between calcium carbonate and hydrochloric acid can be
studied this way.

To study the speed of reaction between calcium carbonate
and dilute hydrochloric acid.

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Figure 1 An experiment to study the speed of reaction by measuring the mass at different time
1. The apparatus is set up as shown in Figure 1. The
cotton wool in the mouth of the conical flask is used
to prevent acid spray i.e. to stop the acid from
splashing out as the reaction takes place.
2. The mass of the system is recorded. This includes the
mass of the marble chips (calcium carbonate), dilute
hydrochloric acid, conical flask, small test tube, string
and cotton wool.
3. 3. The conical flask is shaken to mix the marble chips
and acid. The stopwatch is immediately started.
4. The mass of the system is recorded at one-minute

Plot a graph of mass of system against time from a
sample set of results from Experiment 1.

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Measuring speed of the reaction from changes in
The reaction between a reactive metal and a dilute acid is
considered fast. For example, magnesium reacts with
dilute hydrochloric acid according to the equation:

Magnesium + dilute hydrochloric acid  magnesium

chloride+ hydrogen

As the reaction proceeds, the total volume of hydrogen

gas produced increases. The speed of the reaction can
therefore be determined by collecting and measuring the
volume of hydrogen produced at regular time intervals.

To study the speed of reaction between dilute hydrochloric
acid and magnesium.

Figure 2 An experiment to study the speed of reaction by measuring the volume of gas evolved.

1. The apparatus is set up as shown in Figure 2. The
layer of oxide on the magnesium ribbon is removed
using a piece of sandpaper. This ensures that
magnesium reacts with the dilute hydrochloric acid.
The magnesium ribbon is then put in a small test
2. The conical flask is shaken to mix the magnesium
ribbon and acid. The stopwatch is started at the
same time.

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3. The volume of hydrogen collected in the gas syringe
is recorded every half-minute.

Plot a graph of the volume of hydrogen produced
against time from a sample set of results from
Experiment 2.

• How can we estimate the change of speed of

reaction from a graph?

- The shape of the graph tells us whether the speed of

reaction changes or remains the same as time
- The _________ the gradient, the __________ the speed
of the reaction.

On the two graphs below, label which reaction is faster

and slower.

 Please proceed to do exercise from:


Collision theory of Reaction

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The theory that we use to explain how different variables
change the rate of reaction is called the collision theory.

For a reaction to take place, the particles of the

substances that are reacting have to collide. If they
collide, with enough energy then they will react. The
minimum amount of kinetic (movement) energy that two
particles need if they are going to react when they collide
is called the activation energy.

There are therefore two main ways of increasing the rate

of a reaction:

1) increase the number of collisions

2) increase the amount of movement (kinetic)

energy so that more collisions lead to a reaction

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A thought experiment on collision theory

A group of students are taken into the school hall and

blindfolded. They are asked to move around the hall. If two
students crash into each other and both students fall
over, then they stay lying on the ground - they have

How can we increase the rate at which students fall

down? There are two obvious choices:

1) Put more students into the hall. This will lead to more
collisions between students.

2) Ask the students in the hall to run more quickly. This

will also lead to more collisions and to a greater chance of
a collision leading to the students falling over.

We will use this "thought experiment" to try and explain

rates of reaction.

Factors affecting the speed of reaction

You will be expected to remember the factors that affect
the speed of reactions, and to plot or interpret graphs
from rate experiments.

Factors affecting the speed of reactions are:

• Concentration of solution
• Pressure
• Particle size of solids
• Temperature
• Catalyst

1) Concentration of solution

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Looking back to the “students in the Hall” thought
experiment, we are putting more students into the Hall.

2) Pressure

Looking back to the “students in the Hall” thought

experiment, we are putting the students into a smaller

3) Particle size of solids

4) Temperature
If the temperature is increased, the rate increases
because not all particles react when they collide. They
must have a certain minimum energy to react when they
At a higher temperature, the particles have more energy
so they react more often when they collide.

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5) Catalyst
If a catalyst is added, the rate increases because catalysts
allow the reaction to go by a different route. The minimum
energy needed for a reaction when particles collide is less,
so more reactions take place.

The graph above summarises the differences in the rate of

reaction at different temperatures, concentrations and
size of pieces. The steeper the line, the greater the rate of
reaction. Reactions are usually fastest at the beginning
when the concentration of reactants is greatest. When the
line becomes horizontal the reaction has stopped.

 Please proceed to do exercise from:


• What is a catalyst?

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• What are the characteristics of a catalyst?

• What are the factors affecting the speed of catalysed

The speed of catalysed reactions is affected by changes in
conditions, just like reactions without catalysts. The speed
of a catalysed reaction is increased by:

• How does a catalyst work?

Catalysts provide an alternative route for the reaction. In
the catalysed route, ______ energy is needed to break
bonds and so the activation energy is ________. As a result,
bond breaking takes place more easily and more often
when particles collide. This is why catalysed reactions are

The effect of catalysts on activation energies can be

shown by energy profile diagrams such as shown in Figure

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Figure 3 the energy profile diagrams showing the effect of a catalyst on activation energy.

A simple analogy of how catalysts work is a group of

cyclists riding up and over a hill. The hill route is the
normal one, requiring a lot of energy. The short cut
through the tunnel is like the catalysed route. It requires
less energy and the cyclists, like the reaction, go faster.
(Figure 4)

Figure 4 showing how catalyst work by taking an alternate pathway.

• What are the common catalysts for some

industrial processes?
In many industrial processes, catalysts are used to speed
up various reactions. Below are some examples:
a) Iron-
b) Vanadium-
c) Platinum –
d) Aluminium oxide or silicon (IV) oxide –

• Enzymes are substances that catalyse the chemical
reactions in plants and animals. They are often called
biological catalysts.

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Figure 5 showing how an enzyme works.

• What are the properties of enzymes?


• What are the uses of enzymes in industry?


 Please proceed to do exercise from:


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