Sun June 01, 2008 By:

Collison theory

Expert Reply
Sun June 15, 2008

Collision theory  qualitatively explains how chemical reactions occur and why reaction rates differ for different reactions. This theory is based on the idea that reactant particles must collide for a reaction to occur, but only a certain fraction of the total collisions have the energy to connect effectively and cause the reactants to transform into products. This is because only a portion of the molecules have enough energy and the right orientation (or "angle") at the moment of impact to break any existing bonds and form new ones. The minimal amount of energy needed for this to occur is known as activation energy. Collision theory is closely related to chemical kinetics.

Drawbacks: If the values of the predicted rate constants are compared with the values of known rate constants it is noticed that collision theory fails to estimate the constants correctly and the more complex the molecules are, the more it fails. The reason for this is that particles have been supposed to be spherical and able to react in all directions; that is not true, as the orientation of the collisions is not always the right one. For example in the hydrogenation reaction of ethylene the H2 molecule must approach the bonding zone between the atoms, and only a few of all the possible collisions fulfill this requirement.

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