Methods for Measuring Rate of Reaction
Name: Alison D.
What are the methods available for measuring the rate of a chemical
There are literally thousands of methods for measuring the rates of chemical reactions,
depending upon a large number of variables -- how fast is the reaction, is it a gas phase,
liquid phase, solid phase, or mixed phases -- to mention just a few. In principle, any
chemical or physical change that occurs as the reaction proceeds can be used to measure
its rate. This could be pH, color, volume, temperature, pressure, -- the list is very
long. You can find out some specific methods if you look up a book on "chemical kinetics"
or even an introductory text on physical chemistry in the library. You might also do a
"Google" search on terms like "rate(s) of chemical reaction" on the Internet.
Your question is not easy to answer because there are so many kinds of chemical reactions.
Allow me to describe the bottom-line approach. For example in a hypothetical reaction like
A + B ===> C + D
We can measure the rate at which reactants (A and B) become products (C and D) by measuring
how fast A (or B) disappears and / or how fast C (or D) appears in the reaction system.
This is done by measuring the amounts (concentrations) of the reactants and / or products
as the reaction proceeds.
This means that we must have a way to sample (or otherwise detect changes in) the contents
of the reaction vessel while the reaction is in progress. That may or may not be easy
because some reactions can be exceedingly fast or agonizingly slow.
Thus, the approach taken must consider the properties of the reactants and products and
the overall nature of the process under study.
If the reaction causes a color change, then just watch this with instrumentation.
If the pH changes, things like this, then watch with a meter.
You could occasionally take sample from the reaction chamber and run the samples
through a chromatography system, which separates out the parts. At first there will
be only reactants. But as time goes on, and you come back for more samples, perhaps
a new signal will begin to show up, the product. This might be useful for a slower
reaction, where you have time to do all this.
Maybe the reaction releases heat, well watch the system warm up over time.
Many ways, but you have to narrow it down based on the reaction.
Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives
Update: June 2012