Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

13.1 Chemical Equilibria

A reversible reaction is at equilibrium when the forward and reverse processes occur at equal rates. Chemical equilibria are dynamic processes characterized by constant amounts of reactant and product species.

13.2 Equilibrium Constants

The composition of a reaction mixture may be represented by a mathematical function known as the reaction quotient, Q. For a reaction at equilibrium, the composition is constant, and Q is called the equilibrium constant, K.

A homogeneous equilibrium is an equilibrium in which all components are in the same phase. A heterogeneous equilibrium is an equilibrium in which components are in two or more phases.

13.3 Shifting Equilibria: Le Châtelier’s Principle

Systems at equilibrium can be disturbed by changes to temperature, concentration, and, in some cases, volume and pressure. The system’s response to these disturbances is described by Le Châtelier’s principle: An equilibrium system subjected to a disturbance will shift in a way that counters the disturbance and re-establishes equilibrium. A catalyst will increase the rate of both the forward and reverse reactions of a reversible process, increasing the rate at which equilibrium is reached but not altering the equilibrium mixture’s composition (K does not change).

13.4 Equilibrium Calculations

Calculating values for equilibrium constants and/or equilibrium concentrations is of practical benefit to many applications. A mathematical strategy that uses initial concentrations, changes in concentrations, and equilibrium concentrations (and goes by the acronym ICE) is useful for several types of equilibrium calculations.

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Jan 8, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.