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are all compounds of similar atoms united together by one or more units of affinity, according to their valencies. If this be the case, however, it is evident that there is no real distinction between the reactions which take place when two elements combine together and when an element in a compound is displaced by another. The combination, as it is ordinarily termed, of chlorine with hydrogen, and the displacement of iodine in potassium iodide by the action of chlorine, may be cited as examples; if these reactions are represented, as such reactions very commonly are, by equations which merely express the relative weights of the bodies which, enter, into reaction, and of the products, thus—

H + Cl = HCl
Hydrogen.   Chlorine.   Hydrochloric acid.


KI + Cl = KCl + I
Potassium iodide.   Chlorine.   Potassium chloride.   Iodine.

they appear to differ in character; but if they are correctly represented by molecular equations, or equations which express the relative number of molecules which enter into reaction and which result from the reaction, it will be obvious that the character of the reaction is substantially the same in both cases, and that both are instances of the occurrence of what is ordinarily termed double decomposition—

H2 + Cl2 = 2HCl
Hydrogen.   Chlorine.   Hydrochloric acid.


2KI + Cl2 = 2KCl + I2.
Potassium iodide.   Chlorine.   Potassium chloride.   Iodine.

In all cases of chemical change energy in the form of heat is either developed or absorbed, and the amount of heat developed or absorbed in a given reaction is as definite as are the weights of the substance engaged in the reaction. Thus, in the production of hydrochloric acid from hydrogen and chlorine 22,000 calories are developed; in the production of hydrobromic acid from hydrogen and bromine, however, only 8440 calories are developed; and in the formation of hydriodic acid from hydrogen and iodine 6040 calories are absorbed.

This difference in behaviour of the three elements, chlorine, bromine and iodine, which in many respects exhibit considerable resemblance, may be explained in the following manner. We may suppose that in the formation of gaseous hydrochloric acid from gaseous chlorine and hydrogen, according to the equation

H2 + Cl2 = HCl + HCl,

a certain amount of energy is expended in separating the atoms of hydrogen in the hydrogen molecule, and the atoms of chlorine in the chlorine molecule, from each other; but that heat is developed by the combination of the hydrogen atoms with the chlorine atoms, and that, as more energy is developed by the union of the atoms of hydrogen and chlorine than is expended in separating the hydrogen atoms from each other and the chlorine atoms from one another, the result of the action of the two elements upon each other is the development of heat,—the amount finally developed in the reaction being the difference between that absorbed in decomposing the elementary molecules and that developed by the combination of the atoms of chlorine and hydrogen. In the formation of gaseous hydrobromic acid from liquid bromine and gaseous hydrogen—

H2 + Br2 = HBr + HBr,

in addition to the energy expended in decomposing the hydrogen and bromine molecules, energy is also expended in converting the liquid bromine into the gaseous condition, and probably less heat is developed by the combination of bromine and hydrogen than by the combination of chlorine and hydrogen, so that the amount of heat finally, developed is much less than is developed in the formation of hydrochloric acid. Lastly, in the production of gaseous hydriodic acid from hydrogen and solid iodine—

H2 + I2 = HI + HI,

so much energy is expended in the decomposition of the hydrogen and iodine molecules and in the conversion of the iodine into the gaseous condition, that the heat which it may be supposed is developed by the combination of the hydrogen and iodine atoms is insufficient to balance the expenditure, and the final result is therefore negative; hence it is necessary in forming hydriodic acid from its elements to apply heat continuously.

These compounds also afford examples of the fact that, generally speaking, those compounds are most readily formed, and are most stable, in the formation of which the most heat is developed. Thus, chlorine enters into reaction with hydrogen, and removes hydrogen from hydrogenized bodies, far more readily than bromine; and hydrochloric acid is a far more stable substance than hydrobromic acid, hydriodic acid being greatly inferior even to hydrobromic acid in stability. Compounds formed with the evolution of heat are termed exothermic, while those formed with an absorption are termed endothermic. Explosives are the commonest examples of endothermic compounds.

When two substances which by their action upon each other develop much heat enter into reaction, the reaction is usually complete without the employment of an excess of either; for example, when a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, in the proportions to form water—

2H2 + O2 = 2OH2,

is exploded, it is entirely converted into water. This is also the case if two substances are brought together in solution, by the action of which upon each other a third body is formed which is insoluble in the solvent employed, and which also does not tend to react upon any of the substances present; for instance, when a solution of a chloride is added to a solution of a silver salt, insoluble silver chloride is precipitated, and almost the whole of the silver is removed from solution, even if the amount of the chloride employed be not in excess of that theoretically required.

But if there be no tendency to form an insoluble compound, Or one which is not liable to react upon any of the other substances present, this is no longer the case. For example, when a solution of a ferric salt is added to a solution of potassium thiocyanate, a deep red coloration is produced, owing to the formation of ferric thiocyanate. Theoretically the reaction takes place in the case of ferric nitrate in the manner represented by the equation

Fe(NO3)3 + 3KCNS = Fe(CNS)3 + 3KNO3;
Ferric nitrate.   Potassium thiocyanate.   Ferric thiocyanate.   Potassium nitrate.

but it is found that even when more than sixty times the amount of potassium thiocyanate required by this equation is added, a portion of the ferric nitrate still remains unconverted, doubtless owing to the occurrence of the reverse change—

Fe(CNS)3 + 3KNO3 = Fe(NO3)3 + 3KCNS.

In this, as in most other cases in which substances act upon one another under such circumstances that the resulting compounds are free to react, the extent to which the different kinds of action which may occur take place is dependent upon the mass of the substances present in the mixture. As another instance of this kind, the decomposition of bismuth chloride by water may be cited. If a very large quantity of water be added, the chloride is entirely decomposed in the manner represented by the equation—

BiCl3 + OH2 = BiOCl + 2HCl,
Bismuth chloride.       Bismuth oxychloride.    

the oxychloride being precipitated; but if smaller quantities of water be added the decomposition is incomplete, and it is found that the extent to which decomposition takes place is proportional to the quantity of water employed, the decomposition being incomplete, except in presence of large quantities of water, because of the occurrence of the reverse action—

BiOCl + 2HCl = BiCl3 + OH2.

Chemical change which merely involves simple decomposition is thus seen to be influenced by the masses of the reacting substances and the presence of the products of decomposition; in other words the system of reacting substances and resultants form a mixture in which chemical action has apparently ceased, or the system is in equilibrium. Such reactions are termed reversible (see Chemical Action).