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The Kinetic-Molecular Theory Explains the Behavior of Gases, Part I

The Kinetic-Molecular Theory Explains the Behavior of Gases, Part I

Recalling that gas pressure is exerted by rapidly moving gas molecules and depends directly on the number of molecules hitting a unit area of the wall per unit of time, we see that the KMT conceptually explains the behavior of a gas as follows:

  • Amontons’s law. If the temperature is increased, the average speed and kinetic energy of the gas molecules increase. If the volume is held constant, the increased speed of the gas molecules results in more frequent and more forceful collisions with the walls of the container, therefore increasing the pressure (see the figure below).
  • Charles’s law. If the temperature of a gas is increased, a constant pressure may be maintained only if the volume occupied by the gas increases. This will result in greater average distances traveled by the molecules to reach the container walls, as well as increased wall surface area. These conditions will decrease the both the frequency of molecule-wall collisions and the number of collisions per unit area, the combined effects of which balance the effect of increased collision forces due to the greater kinetic energy at the higher temperature.
  • Boyle’s law. If the gas volume is decreased, the container wall area decreases and the molecule-wall collision frequency increases, both of which increase the pressure exerted by the gas (see the figure below).
  • Avogadro’s law. At constant pressure and temperature, the frequency and force of molecule-wall collisions are constant. Under such conditions, increasing the number of gaseous molecules will require a proportional increase in the container volume in order to yield a decrease in the number of collisions per unit area to compensate for the increased frequency of collisions (see the figure below).
  • Dalton’s Law. Because of the large distances between them, the molecules of one gas in a mixture bombard the container walls with the same frequency whether other gases are present or not, and the total pressure of a gas mixture equals the sum of the (partial) pressures of the individual gases.
This figure shows 3 pairs of pistons and cylinders. In a, which is labeled, “Charles’s Law,” the piston is positioned for the first cylinder so that just over half of the available volume contains 6 purple spheres with trails behind them. The trails indicate movement. Orange dashes extend from the interior surface of the cylinder where the spheres have collided. This cylinder is labeled, “Baseline.” In the second cylinder, the piston is in the same position, and the label, “Heat” is indicated in red capitalized text. Four red arrows with wavy stems are pointing upward to the base of the cylinder. The six purple spheres have longer trails behind them and the number of orange dashes indicating points of collision with the container walls has increased. A rectangle beneath the diagram states, “Temperature increased, Volume constant equals Increased pressure.” In b, which is labeled, “Boyle’s Law,” the first, baseline cylinder shown is identical to the first cylinder in a. In the second cylinder, the piston has been moved, decreasing the volume available to the 6 purple spheres to half of the initial volume. The six purple spheres have longer trails behind them and the number of orange dashes indicating points of collision with the container walls has increased. This second cylinder is labeled, “Volume decreased.” A rectangle beneath the diagram states, “Volume decreased, Wall area decreased equals Increased pressure.” In c, which is labeled “Avogadro’s Law,” the first, baseline cylinder shown is identical to the first cylinder in a. In the second cylinder, the number of purple spheres has changed from 6 to 12 and volume has doubled. This second cylinder is labeled “Increased gas.” A rectangle beneath the diagram states, “At constant pressure, More gas molecules added equals Increased volume.”

(a) When gas temperature increases, gas pressure increases due to increased force and frequency of molecular collisions. (b) When volume decreases, gas pressure increases due to increased frequency of molecular collisions. (c) When the amount of gas increases at a constant pressure, volume increases to yield a constant number of collisions per unit wall area per unit time.

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