1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can chemical reactions take place at absolute zero?

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    Title says it all. I've been wondering.

    The argument is, is there a minimal temperature required for any chemical reaction to reach its activation threshold?

    Or would the energylessness of the atoms prevent bonds from forming (or dissolving, I guess)?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    You can't reach absolute zero, so this question is moot.

    Furthermore, if this reaction is exothermic, you won't be able to even approach absolute zero until the reaction is complete.
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    And to top it all off, atoms aren't atoms at absolute zero. They smear out into what's called a Bose-Einsteinian Condensate.
  5. Jun 5, 2012 #4
    Well... I can't travel at the speed of light, but if I could, time wouldn't pass.


    I just looked that up on Wikipedia. That answers my question! -- Many thanks.

  6. Jun 5, 2012 #5
    Let's at least clarify the idea.

    Are there chemical reactions that can take place at any arbitrarily low temperature?

    I'm thinking that a sodium and chlorine atom drifting toward each other very slowly will still combine ionically regardless of temperature.
  7. Jun 6, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    We can't get to the speed of light either, so one cannot claim that this is true. Whether or not you could is irrelevant. We can't do it and our equations for transforming between frames does not work if you try to use c as the velocity in the equation.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook