AQA GCSE Chemistry

Revision Notes

6.1.7 Collision Theory & Activation Energy

Collision Theory

  • Collision theory states that chemical reactions occur only when the reactant particles collide with sufficient energy to react
  • The minimum amount of energy needed is called the activation energy, which is different for each reaction
  • Particles that collide with insufficient energy have unsuccessful collisions and just bounce off each other
  • The rate of a reaction is therefore also dependent on the energy of collisions as well as the number of collisions
  • To increase the rate of a reaction then the number of successful collisions needs to be increased

Collision Theory - Particles Colliding, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Diagram showing a successful and an unsuccessful collision

Explaining Rates

  • Increasing the number of successful collisions means that a greater proportion of reactant particles collide to form product molecules.
  • We have seen previously that the following factors influence the rate of reaction
    • Increasing concentration / pressure
    • Increasing temperature
    • Increase the surface area of a solid reactant
    • Use of a catalyst
  • We can use collision theory to explain why these factors influence the reaction rate:

Concentration of a Solution / Pressure of a Gas

Reaction Kinetics Concentration on Rate of Reaction, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

The diagram shows a higher concentration of particles in (b) which means that there are more particles present in the same volume than (a) so the number of collisions between reacting particles is increased causing an increased rate of reaction


  • Increasing the concentration of a solution will increase the rate of reaction 
  • This is because there will be more reactant particles in a given volume, allowing more frequent and successful collisions per second, increasing the rate of reaction
  • For a gaseous reaction, increasing the pressure has the same effect as the same number of particles will occupy a smaller space, increasing the concentration
  • If you double the number of particles you will double the number of collisions per second
  • The number of colllisions is proportional to the number of particles present


Effect of temperature, downloadable IB Chemistry revision notes

An increase in temperature causes an increase in the kinetic energy of the particles. The number of successful collisions increases 


  • Increase in the temperature, the rate of reaction will increase
  • This is because the particles will have more kinetic energy than the required activation energy, therefore there will be more frequent and successful collisions per second, increasing the rate of reaction
  • The effect of temperature on collisions is not so straight forward as concentration or surface area; a small increase in temperature causes a large increase in rate
  • For aqueous and gaseous systems, a rough rule of thumb is that for every 10 degree (Kelvin) increase in temperature the rate of reaction approximately doubles

Surface area of a solid

Effect of surface area, downloadable IB Chemistry revision notes

An increase in surface area means more collisions per second


  • With an increase in the surface area of a solid reactant, the rate of reaction will increase
  • This is because more surface area of the particles will be exposed to the other reactant, producing a higher number of collisions per second
  • If you double the surface area you will double the number of collisions per second

Exam Tip

Temperature affects reaction rate by increasing the number of collisions and the energy of the collisions. Of the two factors, the increase in energy is the more important one.

Author: Francesca

Fran has taught A level Chemistry in the UK for over 10 years. As head of science, she used her passion for education to drive improvement for staff and students, supporting them to achieve their full potential. Fran has also co-written science textbooks and worked as an examiner for UK exam boards.

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