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Recently, in post–16 specifications, thermodynamics been taught with the emphasis on energetics – using ∆H for a reaction as the indication of whether it is likely to ‘go’ or not. This site looks at an alternative, and more fundamental, approach. This starts from a consideration of the chance behaviour of particles and energy, and sees how this leads to the entirely predictable outcomes of chemical reactions.

The tutorials section is written largely with the teacher in mind and attempts to answer the question ‘why do some chemical reactions go in a particular direction and how might this be changed?’. It does this by considering that molecules and energy quanta behave randomly and adopt the most probable arrangements by chance alone. This leads to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the concept of Gibbs free energy and a consideration of the factors that govern the equilibrium position in reversible reactions.

How to use this site

To the left there are links to the tutorials, simulations and video clips. The tutorials form a narrative (which could be used as a teaching sequence) and the simulations and video clips may be accessed from this narrative, or independently of it. In the latter case, they are available as a ‘tool kit’ which may be used as teacher demonstrations or as independent student investigations.

Get started with the first tutorial The direction of chemical reactions

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last update 21.05.2009

The quantum casino