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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Use the postulates of collision theory to explain the effects of physical state, temperature, and concentration on reaction rates
  • Define the concepts of activation energy and transition state
  • Use the Arrhenius equation in calculations relating rate constants to temperature

We should not be surprised that atoms, molecules, or ions must collide before they can react with each other. Atoms must be close together to form chemical bonds. This simple premise is the basis for a very powerful theory that explains many observations regarding chemical kinetics, including factors affecting reaction rates.

Collision theory is based on the following postulates:

  1. The rate of a reaction is proportional to the rate of reactant collisions:

    reaction rate # collisions time
  2. The reacting species must collide in an orientation that allows contact between the atoms that will become bonded together in the product.

  3. The collision must occur with adequate energy to permit mutual penetration of the reacting species’ valence shells so that the electrons can rearrange and form new bonds (and new chemical species).

We can see the importance of the two physical factors noted in postulates 2 and 3, the orientation and energy of collisions, when we consider the reaction of carbon monoxide with oxygen:

2 CO( g ) + O 2 ( g ) 2 CO 2 ( g )

Carbon monoxide is a pollutant produced by the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. To reduce this pollutant, automobiles have catalytic converters that use a catalyst to carry out this reaction. It is also a side reaction of the combustion of gunpowder that results in muzzle flash for many firearms. If carbon monoxide and oxygen are present in sufficient quantity, the reaction is spontaneous at high temperature and pressure.

The first step in the gas-phase reaction between carbon monoxide and oxygen is a collision between the two molecules:

CO( g ) + O 2 ( g ) CO 2 ( g ) + O( g )

Although there are many different possible orientations the two molecules can have relative to each other, consider the two presented in [link] . In the first case, the oxygen side of the carbon monoxide molecule collides with the oxygen molecule. In the second case, the carbon side of the carbon monoxide molecule collides with the oxygen molecule. The second case is clearly more likely to result in the formation of carbon dioxide, which has a central carbon atom bonded to two oxygen atoms ( O = C = O ) . This is a rather simple example of how important the orientation of the collision is in terms of creating the desired product of the reaction.

A diagram is shown that illustrates two possible collisions between C O and O subscript 2. In the diagram, oxygen atoms are represented as red spheres and carbon atoms are represented as black spheres. The diagram is divided into upper and lower halves by a horizontal dashed line. At the top left, a C O molecule is shown striking an O subscript 2 molecule such that the O atom from the C O molecule is at the point of collision. Surrounding this collision are a mix of molecules of C O, and O subscript 2 of varying sizes. At the top middle region of the figure, two separated O atoms are shown as red spheres with the label, “Oxygen to oxygen,” beneath them. To the upper right, “No reaction” is written. Similarly in the lower left of the diagram, a C O molecule is shown striking an O subscript 2 molecule such that the C atom from the C O molecule is at the point of collision. Surrounding this collision are a mix of molecules of C O, and O subscript 2 of varying sizes. At the lower middle region of the figure, a black sphere and a red spheres are shown with the label, “Carbon to oxygen,” beneath them. To the lower right, “More C O subscript 2 formation” is written and three models of C O subscript 2 composed each of a single central black sphere and two red spheres in a linear arrangement are shown.
Illustrated are two collisions that might take place between carbon monoxide and oxygen molecules. The orientation of the colliding molecules partially determines whether a reaction between the two molecules will occur.

If the collision does take place with the correct orientation, there is still no guarantee that the reaction will proceed to form carbon dioxide. Every reaction requires a certain amount of activation energy for it to proceed in the forward direction, yielding an appropriate activated complex along the way. As [link] demonstrates, even a collision with the correct orientation can fail to form the reaction product. In the study of reaction mechanisms, each of these three arrangements of atoms is called a proposed activated complex    or transition state .

Questions & Answers

who are the alchemist?
Victor Reply
alchemy science of transmutation. typically it is aim at tranforming lead to or other base metals to gold and the creation of the philosophers stone which in reality isn't a stone it's something priceless something we all need for coming times. don't be fooled
read Corinthians 5 verses 50 to the end of the chapter then read revelations chapter 2 verse 17
The word "Alchemy" comes from the forgotten name for Ancient Egypt, Khemmet. Khem was the name for the Egyptian Empire, but the actual land of Egypt was called Khemmet because the "T" on the end of a word denoted a physical location on Earth and not just an idea.
What's the mass number of carbon
Charlie Reply
first Faraday's law
mass number of carbon is 12.
wat d atomic number of oxygen
atomic number of oxygen is 8
which quantum number divides shell into orbitals?
Tomiwa Reply
what is atom
Desmond Reply
an atom is a smallest indivisible part of an element
an atom is the smallest part of an element that takes part in a chemical reaction
wat is neutralization
Dubem Reply
when any acid reacts with base to decrease it's acidity or vice-versa to form salt and solvent.. which is called neutralization
explain buffer
buffer is a solution which resists changes in pH when acid or alkali added to it..
hello, who is online
buffer is the solution which resist the change in pH by addition of small amount of acid or alkali to it
neutralisation is the process of mixing of a acid and a base to form water and corresponding salt
how to solve equation on this
Princewill Reply
what are the elent of ionic and covalent bonding
what is gases
Wesike Reply
Its one of the fundamental sate of matter alone side with liquid, solid and plasma
What is chemical bonding
To my own definitions. It's a unit of measurement to express the amount of a chemical substance.
Ozoaniehe Reply
What is mole
It's the unit of measurements used to express the amount of chemical substance.
What is pressure
Stellamaris Reply
force over area
force applied per unit area
force applied per unit area
Why does carbonic acid don't react with metals
Aditya Reply
Why does carbonic acid don't react with metal
Some metals will react depending on their Standard Electrode Potential. Carbonic acid is a very weak acid (i.e. a low hydrogen ion concentration) so the rate of reaction is very low.
sample of carbon-12 has a mass of 6.00g. How many atoms of carbon-12 are in the sample
Emokiniovo Reply
a sample of carbon-12 has a mass of 6.00g. How many atoms of carbon-12 are in the sample
Sharmin Reply
an object of weight 10N immersed in a liquid displaces a quantity of d liquid.if d liquid displaced weights 6N.determine d up thrust of the object
ugonna Reply
how human discover earth is not flat
Jason Reply
We don't fall off. If set off in any direction in a straight line and keep going. You'll end up back where you started.
earth is spherical
Also, every other planet is spherical as that is the most energy efficient shape. gravity pulls equally on all areas. Sphere.
Practice Key Terms 5

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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