Half Life of a Reaction

The half-life of a reaction (t1/2) is the time required for one-half of a given amount of reactant to be consumed. In each succeeding half-life, half of the remaining concentration of the reactant is consumed. Using the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (seen previously) as an example, we find that during the first half-life (from 0.00 hours to 6.00 hours), the concentration of H2O2 decreases from 1.000 M to 0.500 M. During the second half-life (from 6.00 hours to 12.00 hours), it decreases from 0.500 M to 0.250 M; during the third half-life, it decreases from 0.250 M to 0.125 M. The concentration of H2O2 decreases by half during each successive period of 6.00 hours.

The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide is a first-order reaction, and, as can be shown, the half-life of a first-order reaction is independent of the concentration of the reactant. However, half-lives of reactions with other orders depend on the concentrations of the reactants.