Solving Chemical Equilibrium Problems

This is as complex as the problems get for general chemistry students at West Point and Maryville.

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Even at very dilute concentrations, the respective calculated p H values are equivalent up to three decimal places.

The calculated p H values start to vary significantly, however, for an acid such as hypoiodous acid ( Table 1.

Natalie Ulrich, College of Arts and Sciences, Maryville University, St. Thomas Spudich, College of Arts and Sciences, Maryville University, St. Eileen Kowalski, Department of Chemistry and Life Science, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. Kalainoff, Department of Chemistry and Life Science, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.

We discuss our use of Sage Math Cell, a web-based, open-source math-solver, in conjunction with the systematic method, to solve problems involving multi-variable equilibrium reactions while avoiding the use of simplifying approximations.

At first, students often make syntax errors because they forget to include coding elements like multiplication symbols, double equal signs, etc.

Frustration levels are generally high during this week as this is usually the first time students have encountered coding, but this frustration usually subsides as students grow accustomed to using the software.

Below is a representative example of student work using the systematic method to solve a simple gas phase equilibrium problem with three variables (figure 1): Example 1: A chemist adds 5.0 iodine gas into a closed container.

Determine the concentrations of all the gases once the system has achieved equilibrium. Student work using the systematic method to solve a simple equilibrium problem.

The student then assigned variables to each species in solution, determined the input and output concentrations (while accounting for dilution), and wrote four equations to solve for the four unknowns.

Below is the corresponding Sage Math Cell code: Figure 5.