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Chemistry LibreTexts

28.2: Rate Laws Must Be Determined Experimentally

There are several methods that can be used to measure chemical reactions rates. A common method is to use spectrophotometry to monitor the concentration of a species that will absorb light. If it is possible, it is preferable to measure the appearance of a product rather than the disappearance of a reactant, due to the low background interference of the measurement. However, high-quality kinetic data can be obtained either way.

The Stopped-Flow Method

The stopped-flow method involves using flow control (which can be provided by syringes or other valves) to control the flow of reactants into a mixing chamber where the reaction takes place. The reaction mixture can then be probed spectrophotometrically. Stopped-flow methods are commonly used in physical chemistry laboratory courses (Progodich, 2014).

Some methods depend on measuring the initial rate of a reaction, which can be subject to a great deal of experimental uncertainty due to fluctuations in instrumentation or conditions. Other methods require a broad range of time and concentration data. These methods tend to produce more reliable results as they can make use of the broad range of data to smooth over random fluctuations that may affect measurements. Both approaches (initial rates and full concentration profile data methods) will be discussed below.


  • Patrick E. Fleming (Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; California State University, East Bay)