Monday, January 24, 2022

Introducing the collision theory

Collision theory states that when suitable particles of the reactant hit each other with correct orientation, only a certain amount of collisions result in a perceptible or notable change; these successful changes are called successful collisions.


Collision theory was proposed independently by Max Trautz in 1916 and William Lewis in 1918.

Consider the bimolecular elementary reaction:

A + B → C

In collision theory it is considered that two particles A and B will collide if their nuclei get closer than a certain distance.

The area around a molecule A in which it can collide with an approaching B molecule is called the cross section of the reaction and is, in simplified terms, the area corresponding to a circle whose radius is the sum of the radii of both reacting molecules, which are supposed to be spherical.

As molecules are quantum-mechanical many-particle systems of electrons and nuclei based upon the Coulomb and exchange interactions, generally they neither obey rotational symmetry nor do they have a box potential.

Therefore, more generally the cross section is defined as the reaction probability of a ray of A particles per areal density of B targets, which makes the definition independent from the nature of the interaction between A and B.

The successful collisions must have enough energy, also known as activation energy, at the moment of impact to break the pre-existing bonds and form all new bonds. This results in the products of the reaction.

Increasing the concentration of the reactant brings about more collisions and hence more successful collisions. Increasing the temperature increases the average kinetic energy of the molecules in a solution, increasing the amount of collisions that have enough energy.

When a catalyst is involved in the collision between the reactant molecules, less energy is required for the chemical change to take place, and hence more collisions have sufficient energy for reaction to occur. The reaction rate therefore increases.

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