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Ethane rotation at room temperature

  1. Mar 23, 2013 #1
    The energy available at room temperature is 0.593 kcal/mol (wikipedia) so why is it that Ethane is said to freely rotate from staggered to eclipse if it has a rotational energy barrier of 2.9 kcal/mol (wikipedia)? What am I missing here?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2013 #2


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    Energy available to what? No idea where does this number come from (it can have some sense, I just don't know).
  4. Mar 23, 2013 #3


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    0.593 kcal/mol is the average energy per degree of freedom. You always have some molecules with more and some with less energy.
  5. Mar 23, 2013 #4


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    He means kT at room temperature.
    The rotation is certainly not a free rotation. However thermal energy at room temperature is enough to overcome the rotation barrier in a considerable fraction of the molecules so that interconversion of the conformers is very rapid.
  6. Mar 24, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the comment Borek, my question was not at all clear. My issue was with the commonly found comment "the barrier to rotation about the C-C bond in ethane is approximately 3 kcal/mol. This energy is easily accessible at room temperature." I want to know why this is easily accessible. I assume (although I have not seen this explicitly written in any of the examples I've read) that we are talking about ethane gas at room temperature.

    - The driving force for rotation is found through collisions with other ethane molecules? Ethane has 3N degrees of freedom and so a total internal energy of 12kT ~ 7kcal/mol. So it is assumed that many collisions can transfer the required 3kcal/mol? Quick side question, the 3N degrees of freedom has three rotational (overall molecule) but what about internal rotation? Is this factored in?

    - How would this picture change in solution? References for this would be greatly appreciated.
  7. Mar 25, 2013 #6


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