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## Chemistry library

### Course: Chemistry library > Unit 15

Lesson 4: Gibbs free energy- Gibbs free energy and spontaneity
- Gibbs free energy and spontaneity
- Gibbs free energy example
- More rigorous Gibbs free energy / spontaneity relationship
- A look at a seductive but wrong Gibbs spontaneity proof
- Changes in free energy and the reaction quotient
- Standard change in free energy and the equilibrium constant
- 2015 AP Chemistry free response 2c

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# Gibbs free energy and spontaneity

How the second law of thermodynamics helps us determine whether a process will be spontaneous, and using changes in Gibbs free energy to predict whether a reaction will be spontaneous in the forward or reverse direction (or whether it is at equilibrium!).

## Key points

- The
**second law of thermodynamics**says that the entropy of the universe always increases for a spontaneous process: delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, u, n, i, v, e, r, s, e, end text, end subscript, equals, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, plus, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, u, r, r, o, u, n, d, i, n, g, s, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0 - At constant temperature and pressure, the
**change in Gibbs free energy**is defined as delta, start text, G, end text, equals, delta, start text, H, end text, minus, start text, T, end text, delta, start text, S, end text. - When delta, start text, G, end text is negative, a process will proceed spontaneously and is referred to as
**exergonic**. - The spontaneity of a process can depend on the temperature.

## Spontaneous processes

In chemistry, a spontaneous processes is one that occurs without the addition of external energy. A spontaneous process may take place quickly or slowly, because spontaneity is not related to kinetics or reaction rate. A classic example is the process of carbon in the form of a diamond turning into graphite, which can be written as the following reaction:

This reaction takes so long that it is not detectable on the timescale of (ordinary) humans, hence the saying, "diamonds are forever." If we could wait long enough, we should be able to see carbon in the diamond form turn into the more stable but less shiny, graphite form.

Another thing to remember is that spontaneous processes can be exothermic or endothermic. That is another way of saying that spontaneity is not necessarily related to the enthalpy change of a process, delta, start text, H, end text.

How

*do*we know if a process will occur spontaneously? The short but slightly complicated answer is that we can use*the second law of thermodynamics*. According to the second law of thermodynamics, any spontaneous process must increase the entropy in the universe. This can be expressed mathematically as follows:Great! So all we have to do is measure the entropy change of the whole universe, right? Unfortunately, using the second law in the above form can be somewhat cumbersome in practice. After all, most of the time chemists are primarily interested in changes within our system, which might be a chemical reaction in a beaker. Do we really have to investigate the whole universe, too? (Not that chemists are lazy or anything, but how would we even do that?)

Luckily, chemists can get around having to determine the entropy change of the universe by defining and using a new thermodynamic quantity called

*Gibbs free energy*.## Gibbs free energy and spontaneity

When a process occurs at constant temperature start text, T, end text and pressure start text, P, end text, we can rearrange the second law of thermodynamics and define a new quantity known as Gibbs free energy:

where start text, H, end text is enthalpy, start text, T, end text is temperature (in kelvin, start text, K, end text), and start text, S, end text is the entropy. Gibbs free energy is represented using the symbol start text, G, end text and typically has units of start fraction, start text, k, J, end text, divided by, start text, m, o, l, negative, r, x, n, end text, end fraction.

When using Gibbs free energy to determine the spontaneity of a process, we are only concerned with changes in start text, G, end text, rather than its absolute value. The change in Gibbs free energy for a process is thus written as delta, start text, G, end text, which is the difference between start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, f, i, n, a, l, end text, end subscript, the Gibbs free energy of the products, and start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, i, n, i, t, i, a, l, end text, end subscript, the Gibbs free energy of the reactants.

For a process at constant start text, T, end text and constant start text, P, end text, we can rewrite the equation for Gibbs free energy in terms of changes in the enthalpy (delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript) and entropy (delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript) for our system:

You might also see this reaction written without the subscripts specifying that the thermodynamic values are for the system (not the surroundings or the universe), but it is still understood that the values for delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text are for the system of interest. This equation is exciting because it allows us to determine the change in Gibbs free energy using the enthalpy change, delta, start text, H, end text, and the entropy change , delta, start text, S, end text, of the system. We can use the sign of delta, start text, G, end text to figure out whether a reaction is spontaneous in the forward direction, backward direction, or if the reaction is at equilibrium.

- When delta, start text, G, end text, is less than, 0, the process is
*exergonic*and will proceed spontaneously in the forward direction to form more products. - When delta, start text, G, end text, is greater than, 0, the process is
*endergonic*and not spontaneous in the forward direction. Instead, it will proceed spontaneously in the reverse direction to make more starting materials. - When delta, start text, G, end text, equals, 0, the system is in equilibrium and the concentrations of the products and reactants will remain constant.

## Calculating change in Gibbs free energy

Although delta, start text, G, end text is temperature dependent, it's generally okay to assume that the delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text values are independent of temperature as long as the reaction does not involve a phase change. That means that if we know delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text, we can use those values to calculate delta, start text, G, end text at any temperature. We won't be talking in detail about how to calculate delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text in this article, but there are many methods to calculate those values including:

- Calculating delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text using tables of standard values

When the process occurs under standard conditions (all gases at 1, start text, b, a, r, end text pressure, all concentrations are 1, start text, M, end text, and start text, T, end text, equals, 25, degrees, start text, C, end text), we can also calculate delta, start text, G, end text using the standard free energy of formation, delta, start subscript, f, end subscript, start text, G, end text, degrees.

**Problem-solving tip**: It is important to pay extra close attention to units when calculating delta, start text, G, end text from delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text! Although delta, start text, H, end text is usually given in start fraction, start text, k, J, end text, divided by, start text, m, o, l, negative, r, e, a, c, t, i, o, n, end text, end fraction, delta, start text, S, end text is most often reported in start fraction, start text, J, end text, divided by, start text, m, o, l, negative, r, e, a, c, t, i, o, n, end text, dot, start text, K, end text, end fraction. The difference is a factor of 1000!!

## When is delta, start text, G, end text negative?

If we look at our equation in greater detail, we see that delta, start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript depends on 3 values:

delta, start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, equals, delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, minus, start text, T, end text, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript

- the change in enthalpy delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript
- the temperature start text, T, end text
- the change in entropy delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript

Temperature in this equation always positive (or zero) because it has units of start text, K, end text. Therefore, the second term in our equation, start text, T, end text, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, will always have the same sign as delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript. We can make the following conclusions about when processes will have a negative delta, start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript:

$$

$$

- When the process is exothermic (delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is less than, 0), and the entropy of the system increases (delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0), the sign of delta, start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript is negative at all temperatures. Thus, the process is always spontaneous.
- When the process is endothermic, delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0, and the entropy of the system decreases, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is less than, 0, the sign of delta, start text, G, end text is positive at all temperatures. Thus, the process is never spontaneous.

For other combinations of delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript and delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, the spontaneity of a process depends on the temperature.

- Exothermic reactions (delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is less than, 0) that decrease the entropy of the system (delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is less than, 0) are spontaneous at low temperatures.
- Endothermic reactions (delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0) that increase the entropy of the system (delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0) are spontaneous at high temperatures.

Can you think of any reactions in your day-to-day life that are spontaneous at certain temperatures but not at others?

## Example 1: Calculating delta, start text, G, end text for melting ice

Let's consider an example that looks at the effect of temperature on the spontaneity of a process. The enthalpy of fusion and entropy of fusion for water have the following values:

**What is delta, start text, G, end text for the melting of ice at 20, degrees, start text, C, end text?**

The process we are considering is water changing phase from solid to liquid:

For this problem, we can use the following equation to calculate delta, start text, G, end text, start subscript, start text, r, x, n, end text, end subscript:

Luckily, we already know delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text for this process! We just need to check our units, which means making sure that entropy and enthalpy have the same energy units, and converting the temperature to Kelvin:

If we plug the values for delta, start text, H, end text, start text, T, end text, and delta, start text, S, end text into our equation, we get:

Since delta, start text, G, end text is negative, we would predict that ice spontaneously melts at 20, degrees, start text, C, end text. If you aren't convinced that result makes sense, you should go test it out!

**Concept check: What is delta, start text, G, end text for the melting of ice at minus, 10, degrees, start text, C, end text?**

## Other applications for delta, start text, G, end text: A sneak preview

Being able to calculate delta, start text, G, end text can be enormously useful when we are trying to design experiments in lab! We will often want to know which direction a reaction will proceed at a particular temperature, especially if we are trying to make a particular product. Chances are we would strongly prefer the reaction to proceed in a particular direction (the direction that makes our product!), but it's hard to argue with a positive delta, start text, G, end text!

Thermodynamics is also connected to concepts in other areas of chemistry. For example:

## Summary

- The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of the universe always increases for a spontaneous process: delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, u, n, i, v, e, r, s, e, end text, end subscript, equals, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, y, s, t, e, m, end text, end subscript, plus, delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, s, u, r, r, o, u, n, d, i, n, g, s, end text, end subscript, is greater than, 0
- At constant temperature and pressure, the change in Gibbs free energy is defined as delta, start text, G, end text, equals, delta, start text, H, end text, minus, start text, T, end text, delta, start text, S, end text.
- When delta, start text, G, end text is negative, a process will proceed spontaneously and is referred to as exergonic.
- Depending on the signs of delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text, the spontaneity of a process can change at different temperatures.

## Try it!

For the following reaction, delta, start text, H, end text, start subscript, start text, r, x, n, end text, end subscript, equals, minus, 120, start fraction, start text, k, J, end text, divided by, start text, m, o, l, negative, r, x, n, end text, end fraction and delta, start text, S, end text, start subscript, start text, r, x, n, end text, end subscript, equals, minus, 150, start fraction, start text, J, end text, divided by, start text, m, o, l, negative, r, x, n, end text, dot, start text, K, end text, end fraction:

**At what temperatures will this reaction be spontaneous?**

**Note**: Remember that we can assume that the delta, start text, H, end text and delta, start text, S, end text values are approximately independent of temperature.

## Want to join the conversation?

- Well I got what the formula for gibbs free energy is. but what's the nature of this energy and why is it called 'free'? It does free work is what textbooks say but didn't get the intuitive feel.(22 votes)
- The word "free" is not a very good one! In fact, IUPAC recommend calling it Gibbs energy or the Gibbs function, although most chemists still refer to it as Gibbs free energy.

Gibbs originally called it*available energy*and that is a good term because it is the energy associated with a chemical reaction that is available (or you could say*free*) to do work, assuming constant T and P.(27 votes)

- Is there a difference between the notation ΔG and the notation ΔG˚, and if so, what is it?(10 votes)
- STP is not standard conditions. Standard conditions are 1.0 M solutions and gases at 1.0 atm. Standard conditions does not actually specify a temperature but almost all thermodynamic data is given at 25C (298K) so many people assume this temperature.(4 votes)

- Hey I´m stuck: The ∆G in a reaction is negative but the ∆H was positive and it is assumed that a change temperature doesn´ t significantly affect entropy and entalpy. What does this do to 1) spontanity 2) spontanity at high temp 3) value or sign of ∆S

i read it 3 times now but i´m still insecure - :((3 votes)- This looks like a homework question, so I'll give you some hints to get you on the riht path rather than answering directly.

3) We know that ∆G = ∆H - T∆S. Solving for ∆S, we have:

∆S=(∆H-∆G)/T.

We know (from the question) that ∆G is negative and that ∆H is positive. Temperature is always positive (in Kelvin). From these values, we can know for certain whether ∆S is positive or negative (hint: remember that we are subtracting ∆G!).

1) Knowing the sign of ∆G is enough to say whether the reaction is spontaneous or not under these conditions. If ∆G is negative (from the question), is the reaction spontaneous or non-spontaneous?

2) Let's use ∆G = ∆H - T∆S again. Since ∆H and ∆S don't change significantly with temperature (given in the question), we can assume that they keep the same signs and values: i.e. ∆H is still positive and ∆S is still whatever sign you figured out above. As T increases, the T∆S component gets bigger. T is always positive, so if ∆S is positive then a bigger T∆S will make ∆G more negative (since we subtract T∆S). If ∆S is negative, then the negative signs (from the subtraction and the sign of ∆S) will cancel out, and so as T∆S gets bigger, ∆G will get more positive.(12 votes)

- In the subject heading, 'When is ΔG is negative?', is it a typo that it says

'When the process is endothermic, ΔHsystem > 0, and the entropy of the system decreases, ΔSsystem>0, the sign of ΔG is positive at all temperatures. Thus, the process is never spontaneous' shouldn't the entropy be < 0? if there is a decrease in entropy?(4 votes)- I think you are correct. Change in entropy must be smaller than zero, for the entropy to decrease. It is a typo. You can cross-check from the figure.(5 votes)

- The Entropy change is given by Enthalpy change divided by the Temperature. Then how can the entropy change for a reaction be positive if the enthalpy change is negative?(4 votes)
- Great question! Figuring out the answer has helped me learn this material.

One way to define entropy is`Q/T`

(where`Q`

is the heat associated with a**reversible**process {also note that`∆H`

is only equal to`Q`

when`P`

is constant}).

For spontaneous and thus**irreversible**reactions, the`∆S`

is the same as for a**reversible**reaction (because`S`

is a state variable it doesn't depend on how we got from one condition to another). In contrast,`∆H`

is not equal to`Q`

(because this is not a**reversible**reaction).

A later video helps explain this:

https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry/thermodynamics-chemistry/gibbs-free-energy/v/more-rigorous-gibbs-free-energy-spontaneity-relationship(5 votes)

- Hi all, Sal sir said we would prefer the reaction to proceed in a particular direction (the direction that makes our product!), but it's hard to argue with a positive ΔG! ( located before summary at other applications of del G) .can anybody please explain?(2 votes)
- If ΔG is positive, then the only possible option is to vary the temperature but whether that would work depends on whether the reaction is exo- or endothermic and what the entropy change is.(3 votes)

- can an exothermic reaction be a not spontaneous reaction ?(1 vote)
- Sure. Paper doesn't light itself on fire, right?(4 votes)

- how do i see the sign of entropy when both reactant and product have the same phase(2 votes)
- We have to look up the ΔS for the whole reaction in a table (or test the reaction ourselves... I'd rather look it up!). The value will be either positive or negative. If the reaction can result in a phase change then we might be lucky enough to find a list that has the reaction with reactant and products in the phases we need.

Otherwise we could calculate the change in energy and the use the specific heat equations to see if the phase would change. The example above with melting ice looks a little different because the reaction was a phase change (ice to water) instead of the usual combining or splitting of molecules.(2 votes)

- Hi, could someone explain why exergonic reactions have a negative Gibbs energy value? I get it in terms of doing the calculations by looking at the graphs, but don't get it in terms of particles gaining or losing energy.(2 votes)
- According to the laws of thermodynamics, ever spontaneous process will result in an increase in entropy and thus a loss in "usable" energy to do work. When an exergonic process occurs, some of the energy involved will no longer be usable to do work, indicated by the negative Gibbs energy.(1 vote)

- Is the reaction H2O(l) to H20(s) spontaneous or non spontaneous? The entropy, S, is positive when something goes from a solid to liquid, or liquid to gas, which is increasing in disorder. However, in this equation, water is going from a liquid to solid, so S is negative, and in the Gibbs free reaction equation, S must be positive for a reaction to be spontaneous. How do we determine, without any calculations, the spontaneity of the equation?(1 vote)
- Using that grid from above, if it's an exothermic reaction (water is releasing heat into its surroundings in order to turn into ice), we know it's on the left column. The entropy of liquid water is higher than ice (water as a solid state)so therefore it is not always going to be spontaneous. Putting into the equation, ΔH<0 because it's exothermic, and ΔS<0 because entropy is decreased. Therefore, the reaction is only spontaneous at low temperatures (TΔS). If you think about its real-world application, it makes sense. Liquid water will turn into ice at low enough temperatures.(2 votes)