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Le Chatelier’s Principle

Le Chatelier’s Principle can be used to predict how a change in condition affects a chemical equilibrium. Essentially, if there is a change in either the concentration of reactants/products, temperature, volume or pressure, the chemical system will try to respond by counteracting this change and establishing a new chemical equilibrium. This principle can be illustrated in the Haber process:

N2 + 3H2 <-> 2NH3

For example, if the concentration of NH3 decreased suddenly, the system would try to counteract this change by increasing the concentration of the product. It can do this by shifting the equilibrium of the reaction to the right, by essentially using more reactants to turn into product.

Such a principle can and has been manipulated in chemical industries, such as in the above example, to improve the yield of a certain product. So by removing NH3 continuously, the chemical equilibrium will respond to this by generating more ammonia. This ammonia is then removed, and the system generates even more to increase the yield of ammonia in the Haber process. Thus, studying Le Chatelier’s Principle can help predict the direction of a chemical reaction, as well as the ability to understand how to alter the conditions of a chemical system to obtain a high yield product.


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