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# Spontaneous and Non-Spontaneous Processes

Spontaneous processes are those that occur naturally, without any external influence or intervention. Non-spontaneous processes are those that do not occur naturally and require an input of energy or work to take place.

• Spontaneous Reactions
• Non Spontaneous Reactions
• FAQs

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Spontaneous processes are those that occur naturally, without any external influence or intervention. These processes tend to lead to an increase in entropy (i.e., the degree of disorder or randomness in a system), and they typically release energy. Examples of spontaneous processes include the melting of ice, the rusting of iron, and the diffusion of gas molecules.

Non-spontaneous processes, on the other hand, are those that do not occur naturally and require an input of energy or work to take place. These processes tend to lead to a decrease in entropy, and they typically absorb energy. Examples of non-spontaneous processes include the freezing of water at room temperature, the conversion of diamond into graphite, and the compression of a gas at a constant temperature.

It’s important to note that the distinction between spontaneous and non-spontaneous processes depends on the conditions in which they occur.

For example, the combustion of wood is a spontaneous process under normal conditions, but it can be made non-spontaneous by removing oxygen from the environment.

Similarly, the dissolution of salt in water is a spontaneous process under normal conditions, but it can be made non-spontaneous by increasing the concentration of salt in the water.

## Spontaneous Reactions

The equation for a spontaneous reaction can vary depending on the specific reaction being considered. However, in general, a spontaneous reaction is one in which the Gibbs free energy change (ΔG) is negative. The Gibbs free energy change can be calculated using the following equation:

where ΔH is the change in enthalpy (heat) of the system, T is the temperature in Kelvin, and ΔS is the change in entropy (randomness) of the system.

If ΔG is negative, the reaction is spontaneous, meaning it will occur without the need for an external energy input. Conversely, if ΔG is positive, the reaction is non-spontaneous, meaning it requires an external energy input to occur.

It’s important to note that the Gibbs free energy change is dependent on the conditions of the reaction, such as temperature, pressure, and concentration. Therefore, a reaction that is spontaneous under one set of conditions may not be spontaneous under another set of conditions.

1. Ice melting at room temperature: When an ice cube is left at room temperature, it spontaneously melts and transforms into liquid water. This process is spontaneous because it releases energy to the surroundings.

2. Gas expanding into a vacuum: If a gas is contained in a vessel and the vessel is suddenly opened to a vacuum, the gas spontaneously expands to fill the empty space. This process is spontaneous because it increases the entropy of the gas (i.e., it allows the gas molecules to occupy a greater number of microstates).

3. Sugar dissolving in water: When sugar is added to water, it spontaneously dissolves and forms a homogeneous solution. This process is spontaneous because it decreases the free energy of the system, as the sugar molecules are more evenly distributed throughout the water.

4. Formation of rust: When iron is exposed to oxygen and moisture, it spontaneously oxidizes and forms rust. This process is spontaneous because it releases energy and increases the entropy of the system.

5. Diffusion of perfume: When perfume is sprayed in a room, it spontaneously diffuses and spreads throughout the space. This process is spontaneous because it increases the entropy of the perfume molecules (i.e., it allows them to occupy a greater number of microstates).

## Non Spontaneous Reactions

A non-spontaneous process requires an input of energy or work to occur. The equation for a non-spontaneous process can also vary depending on the specific process being considered, but in general, a non-spontaneous process is one in which the Gibbs free energy change (ΔG) is positive. The Gibbs free energy change can be calculated using the following equation:

where ΔH is the change in enthalpy (heat) of the system, T is the temperature in Kelvin, and ΔS is the change in entropy (randomness) of the system.

If ΔG is positive, the process is non-spontaneous, meaning it cannot occur without an external input of energy or work. To drive a non-spontaneous process, the external input of energy or work must be greater than or equal to the magnitude of ΔG.

It’s important to note that the Gibbs free energy change is dependent on the conditions of the process, such as temperature, pressure, and concentration. Therefore, a process that is non-spontaneous under one set of conditions may be spontaneous under another set of conditions, and vice versa.

1. Ice forming at room temperature: If liquid water is cooled to below its freezing point at room temperature, it will not spontaneously freeze into ice. Instead, an input of energy is required to drive the water molecules to organize into a crystalline structure. This process is non-spontaneous because it requires an input of energy.

2. Compressing a gas at a constant temperature: If a gas is compressed at a constant temperature, the process is non-spontaneous because it requires an input of work. The energy input is required to overcome the repulsive forces between gas molecules and reduce the volume of the gas.

3. Diamond forming from graphite: Diamond is a more thermodynamically stable form of carbon than graphite, but the conversion of graphite into diamond is non-spontaneous because it requires an input of energy. This can be achieved through the application of high pressure and temperature, such as in a diamond anvil cell.

4. Separating salt and water: If a solution of salt in water is left to evaporate, the water will spontaneously evaporate, but the salt will not separate from the water spontaneously. Instead, an input of energy is required to drive the water molecules away from the salt ions and cause the salt to precipitate out of the solution.

5. Charging a battery: The process of charging a battery is non-spontaneous because it requires an input of electrical energy to drive the chemical reaction that stores energy in the battery.

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### Some More Concepts related to Spontaneous and Non Spontaneous Processes:

1. Reversible reactions: Some reactions can be both spontaneous and non-spontaneous depending on the conditions. These reactions are known as reversible reactions. A reversible reaction can occur in both the forward and reverse directions, and the direction of the reaction depends on factors such as temperature, pressure, and concentration. Under certain conditions, the forward reaction may be spontaneous while the reverse reaction is non-spontaneous, and vice versa.

2. Equilibrium: In the case of reversible reactions, when the rates of the forward and reverse reactions become equal, the system reaches a state called chemical equilibrium. At equilibrium, the Gibbs free energy change (ΔG) is zero. This means that the reaction is neither spontaneous nor non-spontaneous but is balanced between the forward and reverse directions.

3. Electrochemical reactions: In addition to the Gibbs free energy change, electrochemical reactions also consider the electrical potential difference, known as the cell potential (Ecell). For electrochemical reactions, a positive cell potential (Ecell > 0) indicates a spontaneous reaction, while a negative cell potential (Ecell < 0) indicates a non-spontaneous reaction.

4. Catalysts: Catalysts are substances that can increase the rate of a chemical reaction by providing an alternative reaction pathway with lower activation energy. Catalysts do not affect the spontaneity of a reaction. They facilitate the reaction by providing an alternate mechanism with lower energy barriers, allowing the reaction to proceed more rapidly.

5. Biological systems: In living organisms, many reactions occur through complex biochemical pathways. The spontaneity of these reactions is often controlled by enzymes, which are biological catalysts. Enzymes lower the activation energy required for reactions to occur, making them more efficient and facilitating the metabolic processes necessary for life.

## Spontaneous and Non-Spontaneous FAQS

##### What is a spontaneous reaction?

A spontaneous reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs without the need for an external input of energy or work. In other words, the reaction occurs naturally, driven by the inherent properties of the reactants.

##### What is a non-spontaneous reaction?

A non-spontaneous reaction is a chemical reaction that requires an external input of energy or work to occur. In other words, the reaction does not occur naturally, and an external force is needed to drive the reaction.

##### What determines whether a reaction is spontaneous or non-spontaneous?

The spontaneity of a reaction is determined by the change in Gibbs free energy (ΔG) of the system. If ΔG is negative, the reaction is spontaneous, whereas if ΔG is positive, the reaction is non-spontaneous.

##### Can a spontaneous reaction be reversed?

Yes, a spontaneous reaction can be reversed if the conditions of the reaction are changed. For example, if the products of a spontaneous reaction are used as reactants, the reverse reaction may be non-spontaneous.

##### Is a spontaneous reaction always fast?

No, a spontaneous reaction does not necessarily have to be fast. The rate of a reaction is determined by the activation energy, which is a separate property from the spontaneity of the reaction.

##### Are all non-spontaneous reactions endothermic?

No, not all non-spontaneous reactions are endothermic. A non-spontaneous reaction may be endothermic or exothermic, depending on the sign of the enthalpy change (ΔH) of the system.

##### Can a non-spontaneous reaction become spontaneous?

Yes, a non-spontaneous reaction can become spontaneous if the conditions of the reaction are changed. For example, by increasing the temperature, it is possible to make an endothermic reaction spontaneous.

Kathleen Currence is one of the founders of eTutorWorld. Previously a middle school principal in Kansas City School District, she has an MA in Education from the University of Dayton, Ohio. She is a prolific writer, and likes to explain Science topics in student-friendly language. LinkedIn Profile

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