Keq - Pressure Dependence

Pressure Dependence

The pressure dependence of the equilibrium constant is usually weak in the range of pressures normally encountered in industry, and therefore, it is usually neglected in practice. This is true for condensed reactant/products (i.e., when reactants and products are solids or liquid) as well as gaseous ones.

For a gaseous-reaction example, one may consider the well-studied reaction of hydrogen with nitrogen to produce ammonia:

N2 + 3H2 2NH3

If the pressure is increased by an addition of an inert gas, then neither the composition at equilibrium nor the equilibrium constant are appreciably affected (because the partial pressures remain constant, assuming an ideal-gas behaviour of all gases involved). However, the composition at equilibrium will depend appreciably on pressure when:

  • the pressure is changed by compression of the gaseous reacting system, and
  • the reaction results in the change of the number of moles of gas in the system.

In the example reaction above, the number of moles changes from 4 to 2, and an increase of pressure by system compression will result in appreciably more ammonia in the equilibrium mixture. In the general case of a gaseous reaction:

the change of mixture composition with pressure can be quantified using:

where p denote the partial pressures of the components, P is the total system pressure, X denote the mole fraction, Kp is the equilibrium constant expressed in terms of partial pressures and KX is the equilibrium constant expressed in terms of mole fractions.

The above change in composition is in accordance with Le Chatelier's principle and does not involve any change of the equilibrium constant with the total system pressure. Indeed, for ideal-gas reactions Kp is independent of pressure.

In a condensed phase, the pressure dependence of the equilibrium constant is associated with the reaction molar volume. For reaction:

the reaction molar volume is:

where V denotes a partial molar volume of a reactant or a product.

For the above reaction, one can expect the change of the reaction equilibrium constant (based either on mole-fraction or molal-concentration scale) with pressure at constant temperature to be:

The matter is complicated as partial molar volume is itself dependent on pressure.

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