Why Use Hess's Law in Chemical Reactions?

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In summary: The Hess's law process is used in instances where a laboratory cannot easily replicate the reaction process. This is because the process resembles the addition of equations. The sum of products minus the sum of reactants is used to calculate the ΔH°rxn. This is then used to calculate other thermochemical reactions.
  • #1
mishima
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Hi, I'm trying to understand why the Hess's law process which resembles addition of equations is used as opposed to other methods, such as the sum of the products minus sum of reactants formula:

ΔH°rxn = Σ ΔH°f (products) minus Σ ΔH°f (reactants)

I get how its for instances such as rust or diamond formation where a laboratory could not replicate the process conveniently, but couldn't you also use the formula in those cases, too?

Elementary books often have questions like "verify an equation addition process with the formula", but why in practice could you only use one or the other? Wouldn't you be using all the same information either way (moles and enthalpies of formation)?

Thanks.
 
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  • #2
mishima said:
Hi, I'm trying to understand why the Hess's law process which resembles addition of equations is used as opposed to other methods, such as the sum of the products minus sum of reactants formula:

ΔH°rxn = Σ ΔH°f (products) minus Σ ΔH°f (reactants)

I get how its for instances such as rust or diamond formation where a laboratory could not replicate the process conveniently, but couldn't you also use the formula in those cases, too?

Elementary books often have questions like "verify an equation addition process with the formula", but why in practice could you only use one or the other? Wouldn't you be using all the same information either way (moles and enthalpies of formation)?

Thanks.

I'm not sure I get your get question correctly. Could elaborate a little?
 
  • #3
Sure, sorry. In our book, a common end of chapter problem is to find the enthalpy of reaction for a given thermochemical equation. The problem first asks you to find it by manipulating formation equations based on the reaction given. These equations would have elements in their natural state on one side, and compounds on the other. Then you look up the enthalpy of formation for that compound. You have one of these types of formation equations for each compound in the original thermochemical equation.

Next you must manipulate these intermediate equations in order to obtain the original equation. There are 2 things you can do: reverse the equation, in which case you muse change the sign of the tabulated enthalpy of formation; second you might have to multiply the entire formation equation by some coefficient, in which case you must also multiply the enthalpy of formation by the same coefficient. By doing so, the elements on the products and reactants side generally cancel out, and leave you with the original equation containing compounds.

The final step in these types of problems is to sum your modified enthalpies of formation. The sum is the enthalpy of reaction for the original equation.

Now, the next part of these problems will ask you to verify your result using the formula I gave above. If you obtain the same number, you did the Hess's Law problem correctly, is the idea (this is a high school text).

Finally, my question: why would a practicing chemist need to use the first method as opposed to using the second? The second method seems much easier to me, and my students. As I understand, the reason this process is used at all is for either very fast or very slow reactions (like graphite into diamond) which are inappropriate for methods like bomb calorimetry. I suppose in short I'm just asking if a chemist would ever use the first method above, with manipulating the formation equations, or if its just a pedagogical device.

Thanks.
 
  • #4
mishima said:
Sure, sorry. In our book, a common end of chapter problem is to find the enthalpy of reaction for a given thermochemical equation. The problem first asks you to find it by manipulating formation equations based on the reaction given. These equations would have elements in their natural state on one side, and compounds on the other. Then you look up the enthalpy of formation for that compound. You have one of these types of formation equations for each compound in the original thermochemical equation.

Next you must manipulate these intermediate equations in order to obtain the original equation. There are 2 things you can do: reverse the equation, in which case you muse change the sign of the tabulated enthalpy of formation; second you might have to multiply the entire formation equation by some coefficient, in which case you must also multiply the enthalpy of formation by the same coefficient. By doing so, the elements on the products and reactants side generally cancel out, and leave you with the original equation containing compounds.

The final step in these types of problems is to sum your modified enthalpies of formation. The sum is the enthalpy of reaction for the original equation.

Now, the next part of these problems will ask you to verify your result using the formula I gave above. If you obtain the same number, you did the Hess's Law problem correctly, is the idea (this is a high school text).

Finally, my question: why would a practicing chemist need to use the first method as opposed to using the second? The second method seems much easier to me, and my students. As I understand, the reason this process is used at all is for either very fast or very slow reactions (like graphite into diamond) which are inappropriate for methods like bomb calorimetry. I suppose in short I'm just asking if a chemist would ever use the first method above, with manipulating the formation equations, or if its just a pedagogical device.

Thanks.

Yes, a chemist would use the second method. Or hopefully they'd have software calculate it for them.

I'm not sure I follow completely, but it sounds like the first method is the same as the second method. It just makes you think about the transition from elemental state to compound rather than just playing with numbers.

And this process is valuable becuase it helps you calculate whether a reaction will occur for any situation. You have to calculate differently for different conditions (temp, pressure, concentrations, etc), but the method is the same. Bomb calorimetry is good, but there are often significant error sources.
 
  • #5


Hess's Law is a powerful tool used in chemistry to calculate the enthalpy change of a chemical reaction. It is based on the principle that the total enthalpy change for a reaction is independent of the pathway taken to get from reactants to products. This means that no matter how the reaction is carried out, the overall energy change will be the same.

One of the main reasons why Hess's Law is preferred over other methods, such as the sum of the products minus sum of reactants formula, is that it takes into account the energy changes of all the intermediate steps involved in a reaction. In other words, it considers the enthalpy changes of all the individual reactions that make up the overall reaction. This is important because some reactions may not be easily or practically carried out in a laboratory setting, and therefore cannot be measured directly. Hess's Law allows us to use other reactions that are easier to measure to determine the enthalpy change of the overall reaction.

Additionally, Hess's Law is a more general and versatile approach compared to the sum of the products minus sum of reactants formula. It can be applied to any type of reaction, whether it is a simple or complex reaction, and regardless of the number of reactants and products involved. This makes it a more reliable and accurate method for calculating enthalpy changes.

In terms of using one method over the other, it ultimately depends on the availability and accuracy of data for the specific reactions involved. If all the necessary enthalpy values are known and measured accurately, then either method can be used. However, if some data is missing or not easily measured, then Hess's Law would be the preferred method as it allows for the use of alternative reactions to calculate the overall enthalpy change.

In conclusion, Hess's Law is a valuable tool in chemistry as it allows us to calculate the enthalpy change of a reaction using other reactions that are easier to measure. It is a versatile and reliable method that takes into account all the intermediate steps involved in a reaction, making it a more accurate approach compared to other methods.
 

1. What is Hess's Law?

Hess's Law states that the overall change in energy of a chemical reaction is independent of the pathway taken to reach the final products, as long as the initial and final conditions are the same.

2. Why is Hess's Law important?

Hess's Law allows us to calculate the energy change of a reaction without directly measuring it, by using known values of other reactions.

3. How is Hess's Law applied in chemistry?

Hess's Law is applied in chemistry to calculate the enthalpy change of a reaction, which is important in understanding the stability and thermodynamics of chemical compounds.

4. What are the benefits of using Hess's Law?

Using Hess's Law can save time and resources, as it eliminates the need to directly measure the energy change of a reaction. It also allows for the prediction of the energy changes of reactions that may be difficult to measure.

5. Are there any limitations to Hess's Law?

Hess's Law assumes that the energy change of a reaction is only dependent on the initial and final states, and does not take into account any intermediate steps or energy changes that may occur. It also assumes that the reactions involved are at constant pressure and temperature.

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