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Knowing that a reaction has multiple steps?

by pierce15
Tags: knowing, multiple, reaction, steps
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Oct30-13, 05:42 PM
P: 246
Hello, is there a way to eliminate the possibility of a reaction having one single step? For example, the reaction

[tex] NO_2(g) + CO(g) \to NO(g) + CO_2 (g) [/tex]

appears to me to be single stepped, but my textbook gives the reaction in multiple steps and does not elaborate on how the individual steps were found.

Also, I apologize for the triviality of this question; I'm only in high school chemistry.
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Oct30-13, 05:51 PM
P: 327
Either intermediate compounds can be observed spectroscopically or by other means, or the reaction rate depends on the concentrations of reactants in a way that can't be explained with a single-step mechanism. This kind of questions are actually way over high school level.
Oct30-13, 06:10 PM
P: 384
Its not a trivial question at all and it's good that you are thinking about these things. Figuring out reaction mechanisms is a huge field and relies heavily on kinetics studies and spectroscopy. Also you can infer multi step mechanisms, in certain systems, by the presence of a mixture of products due to competing rates of various side reactions possible from a given intermediate.

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