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Condition in the course of a reversible chemical reaction in which no net change in the amounts of reactants and products occurs: Products are reverting to reactants at the same rate as reactants are forming products. For practical purposes, the reaction under those conditions is completed. Expressed in terms of the law of mass action, the reaction rate to form products is equal to the reaction rate to re-form reactants. The ratio of the reaction rate constants (i.e., of the amounts of reactants and products, each raised to the proper power), defines the equilibrium constant. Changing the conditions of temperature or pressure changes the reaction's equilibrium; a high temperature or pressure may be used to push a reaction that at ordinary conditions makes little product. See also H.-L. Le Châtelier.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on equilibrium, chemical, visit Britannica.com.
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