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The Ideal Gas and Kinetic Theory


In the laboratory, you typically measure the amount of a substance with a scale telling you how many grams of matter is present in your sample. But at the fundamental level, chemical interactions do not happen between 'grams', chemistry happens with particles. If you want to intelligently discuss your sample in the chemical context, it usually much more useful to talk about the amount of substance as a number of particles. But the number of particles is huge. It really is inconvenient to use numbers with twenty three zeros. For this reason, the concept of the mole was invented. The concept of a mole is extremely useful in that it provides a convenient way to discuss numbers of atoms or molecules that are relevant to laboratory scale samples. Many students get a bit confused by the mole. Over the years in our MCAT course, it has helped students to think of the concept of 'a mole' as exactly the same kind of concept as 'a dozen', but instead of '12', the number is 6.02 X 1023.

The concept of the formula weight for a particular substance allows you to translate the grams you can measure in the laboratory into the moles you can use in chemical reasoning. The formula weight of a substance contains Avogadro's number of particles. It is a way of talking about particle number using a quantity scaled up to the macrostate experience of the laboratory. One can measure out 2g of hydrogen gas or 32g oxygen gas, both representing one mole of gaseous substance, the same number of molecules. Many physical or chemical properties depend on the number of particles, such as the volume of a gas at a given temperature and pressure. Although the oxygen gas represents 16 times the mass of the hydrogen, both moles of gas occupy 22.4 liters at STP.

The WikiPremed MCAT Course is a free comprehensive course in the undergraduate level general sciences. Undergraduate level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology are presented by this course as a unified whole within a spiraling curriculum.

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