IB Chemistry SL

Revision Notes

6.1.4 Activation Energy

Activation Energy

  • For a reaction to take place, the reactant particles need to overcome a minimum amount of energy
  • This energy is called the activation energy (Ea)
  • In exothermic reactions the reactants are higher in energy than the products
  • In endothermic reactions the reactants are lower in energy than the products
  • Therefore, the Ea in endothermic reactions is relatively larger than in exothermic reaction

 

Reaction Kinetics Exothermic-Reaction-Activation-Energy, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

The diagram shows that the reactants are higher in energy than the products in the exothermic reaction, so the energy needed for the reactants to go over the energy barrier is relatively small

Reaction Kinetics Endothermic Reaction Activation Energy, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

The diagram shows that the reactants are lower in energy than the products in the endothermic reaction, so the energy needed for the reactants to go over the energy barrier is relatively large

  • Even though particles collide with each other in the same orientation, if they don’t possess a minimum energy that corresponds to the Ea of that reaction, the reaction will not take place
  • Therefore, for a collision to be successful the reactant particles must collide in the correct orientation AND possess a minimum energy equal to the Ea of that reaction

Exam Tip

You may be required to show or calculate the activation energy for a reverse reaction using a labelled energy profile like those above. The activation energy for the reverse reaction is found by:

For an exothermic reaction =  ∆H + Ea (forward)

For an endothermic reaction = Ea (forward) -∆H

Calculations of the value of the activation energy from experimental data are not required at Standard Level but are part of Topic 16 in Higher Level Chemistry

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