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Chemistry LibreTexts

19: Chemical Thermodynamics

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  • Our goal in this chapter is to extend the concepts of thermochemistry to an exploration of thermodynamics (from the Greek thermo and dynamic, meaning “heat” and “power,” respectively), the study of the interrelationships among heat, work, and the energy content of a system at equilibrium. Thermodynamics tells chemists whether a particular reaction is energetically possible in the direction in which it is written, and it gives the composition of the reaction system at equilibrium. It does not, however, say anything about whether an energetically feasible reaction will actually occur as written, and it tells us nothing about the reaction rate or the pathway by which it will occur (described by chemical kinetics). Chemical thermodynamics provides a bridge between the macroscopic properties of a substance and the individual properties of its constituent molecules and atoms. As you will see, thermodynamics explains why graphite can be converted to diamond; how chemical energy stored in molecules can be used to perform work; and why certain processes, such as iron rusting and organisms aging and dying, proceed spontaneously in only one direction, requiring no net input of energy to occur.

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