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Chemistry LibreTexts

10: Gases

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  • Previously, we focused on the microscopic properties of matter—the properties of individual atoms, ions, and molecules—and how the electronic structures of atoms and ions determine the stoichiometry and three-dimensional geometry of the compounds they form. We will now focus on macroscopic properties—the behavior of aggregates with large numbers of atoms, ions, or molecules. An understanding of macroscopic properties is central to an understanding of chemistry. Why, for example, are many substances gases under normal pressures and temperatures (1.0 atm, 25°C), whereas others are liquids or solids? We will examine each form of matter—gases, liquids, and solids—as well as the nature of the forces, such as hydrogen bonding and electrostatic interactions, that hold molecular and ionic compounds together in these three states.

    In this chapter, we explore the relationships among pressure, temperature, volume, and the amount of gases. You will learn how to use these relationships to describe the physical behavior of a sample of both a pure gaseous substance and mixtures of gases. By the end of this chapter, your understanding of the gas laws and the model used to explain the behavior of gases will allow you to explain how straws and hot-air balloons work, why hand pumps cannot be used in wells beyond a certain depth, why helium-filled balloons deflate so rapidly, and how a gas can be liquefied for use in preserving biological tissue.

    • 10.1: Characteristics of Gases
      Bulk matter can exist in three states: gas, liquid, and solid. Gases have the lowest density of the three, are highly compressible, and fill their containers completely. Elements that exist as gases at room temperature and pressure are clustered on the right side of the periodic table; they occur as either monatomic gases (the noble gases) or diatomic molecules (some halogens, N₂, O₂).
    • 10.2: Pressure
      Pressure is defined as the force exerted per unit area; it can be measured using a barometer or manometer. Four quantities must be known for a complete physical description of a sample of a gas: temperature, volume, amount, and pressure. Pressure is force per unit area of surface; the SI unit for pressure is the pascal (Pa), defined as 1 newton per square meter (N/m²). The pressure exerted by an object is proportional to the force it exerts and inversely proportional to the area.
    • 10.3: The Gas Laws
      The volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure and directly proportional to its temperature and the amount of gas. Boyle showed that the volume of a sample of a gas is inversely proportional to pressure (Boyle’s law), Charles and Gay-Lussac demonstrated that the volume of a gas is directly proportional to its temperature at constant pressure (Charles’s law), and Avogadro showed that the volume of a gas is directly proportional to the number of moles of gas (Avogadro’s law).
    • 10.4: The Ideal Gas Equation
      The empirical relationships among the volume, the temperature, the pressure, and the amount of a gas can be combined into the ideal gas law, PV = nRT. The proportionality constant, R, is called the gas constant. The ideal gas law describes the behavior of an ideal gas, a hypothetical substance whose behavior can be explained quantitatively by the ideal gas law and the kinetic molecular theory of gases. Standard temperature and pressure (STP) is 0°C and 1 atm.
    • 10.5: Further Applications of the Ideal-Gas Equations
      The relationship between the amounts of products and reactants in a chemical reaction can be expressed in units of moles or masses of pure substances, of volumes of solutions, or of volumes of gaseous substances. The ideal gas law can be used to calculate the volume of gaseous products or reactants as needed. In the laboratory, gases produced in a reaction are often collected by the displacement of water from filled vessels; the amount of gas can be calculated from the volume of water displaced.
    • 10.6: Gas Mixtures and Partial Pressures
      The pressure exerted by each gas in a gas mixture is independent of the pressure exerted by all other gases present. Consequently, the total pressure exerted by a mixture of gases is the sum of the partial pressures of the components (Dalton’s law of partial pressures). The amount of gas in a mixture may be described by its partial pressure or its mole fraction. In a mixture, the partial pressure of each gas is the product of the total pressure and the mole fraction.
    • 10.7: Kinetic-Molecular Theory
      The behavior of ideal gases is explained by the kinetic molecular theory of gases. Molecular motion, which leads to collisions between molecules and the container walls, explains pressure, and the large intermolecular distances in gases explain their high compressibility. Although all gases have the same average kinetic energy at a given temperature, they do not all possess the same root mean square speed. The actual values of speed and kinetic energy are not the same for all gas particles.
    • 10.8: Molecular Effusion and Diffusion
      Diffusion is the gradual mixing of gases to form a sample of uniform composition even in the absence of mechanical agitation. In contrast, effusion is the escape of a gas from a container through a tiny opening into an evacuated space. The rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass (Graham’s law), a relationship that closely approximates the rate of diffusion. As a result, light gases tend to diffuse and effuse much more rapidly than heavier gases.
    • 10.9: Real Gases - Deviations from Ideal Behavior
      No real gas exhibits ideal gas behavior, although many real gases approximate it over a range of conditions. Gases most closely approximate ideal gas behavior at high temperatures and low pressures. Deviations from ideal gas law behavior can be described by the van der Waals equation, which includes empirical constants to correct for the actual volume of the gaseous molecules and quantify the reduction in pressure due to intermolecular attractive forces.
    • 10.E: Exercises
      These are homework exercises to accompany the Textmap created for "Chemistry: The Central Science" by Brown et al. Complementary General Chemistry question banks can be found for other Textmaps and can be accessed here. In addition to these publicly available questions, access to private problems bank for use in exams and homework is available to faculty only on an individual basis; please contact Delmar Larsen for an account with access permission.
    • 10.S: Gases (Summary)

    Thumbnail: Motion of gas molecules. The randomized thermal vibrations of fundamental particles such as atoms and molecules—gives a substance its “kinetic temperature.” Here, the size of helium atoms relative to their spacing is shown to scale under 1950 atmospheres of pressure. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0; Greg L).