Calculating Equilibrium Concentrations
Equilibrium constants can be used to calculate the concentrations of reactants and products that will be present at equilibrium.
Learning Objective

Calculate the concentrations of reaction components at equilibrium given the starting concentrations and the equilibrium constant
Key Points
 If you know K_{c} and the initial concentrations for a reaction, you can calculate the equilibrium concentrations.
 Using the ICE chart and equilibriumconstant equation, you can write an expression to describe the concentration changes in the reactants and products.
Terms

concentration
The proportion of a substance in a mixture.

equilibrium
The state of a reaction in which the rates of the forward and reverse reactions are the same.

reaction rate
How fast or slowly a reaction takes place.
Full Text
The ICE Chart
The theory of chemical equilibrium tells us that the species involved in a reversible reaction will eventually arrive at constant concentrations. Let's consider the following reaction:
Initially, the concentration for each species is as follows: [N_{2}]_{0} = [O_{2}]_{0} = 0.1 M, and [NO]_{0} = 0 M. The value of Kc for this reaction is known to be 0.1 (we will assume that this experimentally determined quantity is given to us). We can write the following K_{c} expression based on this starting information:
Since we know what our K_{c} value is and the initial concentrations of reactants, we can set up an ICE chart to track the changes in concentration, as the reaction proceeds towards equilibrium. ICE stands for "initial, change, equilibrium."
ICE chart for the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen to form nitric oxide
The equilibrium concentration is the sum of the initial concentration and the change, which is derived from the reaction stoichiometry.
Note that the values of x in the third row of our chart indicate the change in concentration of each species over the course of the reaction. The coefficients present in the balanced equation tell us how many moles of atoms or molecules participate in the reaction. Using these coefficients, the balanced equation tells us that for every mole of N_{2} and mole O_{2} consumed, 2 moles of NO are produced. We can designate x as the change in concentration of N_{2} and O_{2. } As reactants located on the left hand side of our balanced equation, the sign is negative as they are being consumed. Similarly, we designate +2x as the change in concentration for NO, but it's positive because it's being produced. After we fill in our chart we can determine the equilibrium concentrations by adding down the columns of the ICE chart. The equilibrium concentrations for each species are therefore: [N_{2}] = 0.1  x; [O_{2}] = 0.1  x; [NO] = 2x.
Plugging into the K_{C} Expression and Solving for x
Now that we have expressions for the equilibrium concentrations of each species, we can substitute them into our expression for K_{c}:
If we expand, collect terms, and solve for x, we get the following quadratic equation:
When solving a quadratic equation, we will always get two values for x. The two x values are 0.1188M and 0.0137M. Only one of these values involves equilibrium concentrations that are actually possible. We can determine which x value is the real solution by substituting it into our equilibrium concentrations, found on the ICE chart. For example, consider the value x = −0.0188. Substituting this into the equilibrium amount for N_{2} gives a concentration of 0.1  (0.0188) = 0.1188 M. This is clearly impossible, since we cannot have more N_{2} at equilibrium than we had at the beginning. Therefore, we use the other root for x,which is 0.0137.
Knowing the initial concentration values and equilibrium constant we were able to calculate the equilibrium concentrations for N_{2}, O_{2} and NO. In the system we evaluated, at equilibrium we would expect to find that [O_{2}]_{eq} = [N_{2}]_{eq} = 0.086 M and [NO]_{eq} = 0.028 M. Note that we could have solved for the amount of NO produced rather than for the amount of N_{2} and O_{2} consumed. The result would be the same.
Key Term Reference
 atom
 Appears in these related concepts: Overview of Atomic Structure, Description of the Hydrogen Atom, and Stable Isotopes
 balanced equation
 Appears in these related concepts: Effect of a Common Ion on Solubility, Reaction Stoichiometry, and MoletoMole Conversions
 chemical equilibrium
 Appears in these related concepts: Changes in Volume and Pressure, Equilibrium, and The Equilibrium Constant
 coefficient
 Appears in these related concepts: Factoring General Quadratics, Introduction to Variables, and Balancing Chemical Equations
 equilibrium constant
 Appears in these related concepts: Equilibrium Constant Expression, Weak Acids, and Reaction Quotients
 mole
 Appears in these related concepts: Avogadro's Number and the Mole, Molar Mass of Compounds, and Concept of Osmolality and Milliequivalent
 molecule
 Appears in these related concepts: Molecules, Levels of Organization of Living Things, and Chemical Reactions and Molecules
 product
 Appears in these related concepts: Measuring Reaction Rates, Writing Chemical Equations, and Basic Operations
 reactant
 Appears in these related concepts: Physical and Chemical Changes to Matter, The Law of Conservation of Mass, and Complex Ion Equilibria and Solubility
 reversible reaction
 Appears in these related concepts: Base Dissociation Constant, The Effect of a Catalyst, and Le Chatelier's Principle
 solution
 Appears in these related concepts: Electrolyte and Nonelectrolyte Solutions, Turning Your Claim Into a Thesis Statement, and What is an Equation?
 system
 Appears in these related concepts: Free Energy Changes for Nonstandard States, Definition of Management, and Comparison of Enthalpy to Internal Energy
Sources
Boundless vets and curates highquality, openly licensed content from around the Internet. This particular resource used the following sources: