Rate Laws

Rate Laws


By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the form and function of a rate law
  • Use rate laws to calculate reaction rates
  • Use rate and concentration data to identify reaction orders and derive rate laws

As described in the previous module, the rate of a reaction is often affected by the concentrations of reactants. Rate laws (sometimes called differential rate laws) or rate equations are mathematical expressions that describe the relationship between the rate of a chemical reaction and the concentration of its reactants. As an example, consider the reaction described by the chemical equation:

$$aA + bB \rightarrow products$$

where a and b are stoichiometric coefficients. The rate law for this reaction is written as: $$ rate = k [A]^m [B]^n $$

in which [A] and [B] represent the molar concentrations of reactants, and k is the rate constant, which is specific for a particular reaction at a particular temperature. The exponents m and n are the reaction orders and are typically positive integers, though they can be fractions, negative, or zero. The rate constant k and the reaction orders m and n must be determined experimentally by observing how the rate of a reaction changes as the concentrations of the reactants are changed. The rate constant k is independent of the reactant concentrations, but it does vary with temperature.