Chemistry » Thermochemistry » Enthalpy

Summarizing Enthalpy

Key Concepts and Summary

If a chemical change is carried out at constant pressure and the only work done is caused by expansion or contraction, q for the change is called the enthalpy change with the symbol ΔH, or \(\text{Δ}{H}_{298}^{°}\) for reactions occurring under standard state conditions. The value of ΔH for a reaction in one direction is equal in magnitude, but opposite in sign, to ΔH for the reaction in the opposite direction, and ΔH is directly proportional to the quantity of reactants and products.

Examples of enthalpy changes include enthalpy of combustion, enthalpy of fusion, enthalpy of vaporization, and standard enthalpy of formation. The standard enthalpy of formation, \(\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{f}}^{°},\) is the enthalpy change accompanying the formation of 1 mole of a substance from the elements in their most stable states at 1 bar (standard state).

Many of the processes are carried out at 298.15 K. If the enthalpies of formation are available for the reactants and products of a reaction, the enthalpy change can be calculated using Hess’s law: If a process can be written as the sum of several stepwise processes, the enthalpy change of the total process equals the sum of the enthalpy changes of the various steps.

Key Equations

  • \(\text{Δ}U=q+w\)
  • \(\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{reaction}}^{°}=\sum n\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{f}}^{°}\text{(products)}-\sum n\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}×\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{f}}^{°}\left(\text{reactants}\right)\)


chemical thermodynamics

area of science that deals with the relationships between heat, work, and all forms of energy associated with chemical and physical processes

enthalpy (H)

sum of a system’s internal energy and the mathematical product of its pressure and volume

enthalpy change (ΔH)

heat released or absorbed by a system under constant pressure during a chemical or physical process

expansion work (pressure-volume work)

work done as a system expands or contracts against external pressure

first law of thermodynamics

internal energy of a system changes due to heat flow in or out of the system or work done on or by the system

Hess’s law

if a process can be represented as the sum of several steps, the enthalpy change of the process equals the sum of the enthalpy changes of the steps


compound composed only of hydrogen and carbon; the major component of fossil fuels

internal energy (U)

total of all possible kinds of energy present in a substance or substances

standard enthalpy of combustion \(\text{(}\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{c}}^{°}\text{)}\)

heat released when one mole of a compound undergoes complete combustion under standard conditions

standard enthalpy of formation \(\text{(}\text{Δ}{H}_{\text{f}}^{°}\text{)}\)

enthalpy change of a chemical reaction in which 1 mole of a pure substance is formed from its elements in their most stable states under standard state conditions

standard state

set of physical conditions as accepted as common reference conditions for reporting thermodynamic properties; 1 bar of pressure, and solutions at 1 molar concentrations, usually at a temperature of 298.15 K

state function

property depending only on the state of a system, and not the path taken to reach that state

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