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Activated Complex

A short-lived, unstable arrangement of atoms that may break apart and re-form the reactants or may form products; also sometimes referred to as the transition state.

Activation Energy

The minimum amount of energy required by reacting particles in order to form the activated complex and lead to a reaction.


A substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction by lowering activation energies but is not itself consumed in the reaction.

Collision Theory

States that atoms, ions, and molecules must collide in order to react.

Complex Reaction

A chemical reaction that consists of two or more elementary steps.

Heterogeneous Catalyst

A catalyst that exists in a different physical state than the reaction it catalyzes.

Homogeneous Catalyst

A catalyst that exists in the same physical state as the reaction it catalyzes.


A substance that slows down the reaction rate of a chemical reaction or prevents a reaction from happening.

Instantaneous rate

The rate of decomposition at a specific time, calculated from the rate law, the specific rate constant, and the concentrations of all the reactants.


A substance produced in one elementary of a complex reaction and consumed in a subsequent elementary step.

Method of the initial rates

Determines the reaction order by comparing the initial rates of a reaction carried out with varying reactant concentrations.

rate-determining step

The slowest elementary in a complex reaction; limits the instantaneous rate of the overall reaction.

rate law

The matematical relationship between the rate of a chemical reaction at a given temperature and the concentrations of the reactants.

reaction mechanism

The complete sequence of elementary steps that make up a complex reaction.

reaction order

For a reactant, describes how the rate is affected by the concentration of that reactant.

reaction rate

The change in concentration of a reactant or product per unit time, generally calculated and expressed in moles per liter per second.

specific rate constant

A numerical value that relates reaction rate and concentration of reactant at a specific temperature.

transition state

Term used to describe an activated complex because the activated complex is as likely to form reactants as it is to form products.

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