Atoms and Molecules

Molecules and Chemical Bonds

What is an ideal gas?

An ideal gas is a collection of atoms or molecules that do not interact with one another and occupy essentially no volume. While this is an idealized model, it turns out to describe many gases very well. The reason it works so well is that the atoms or molecules making up a gas are spread out far from one another so that the intermolecular forces between them are extremely weak (they don’t “feel” each other). This description leads to the ideal gas law, which is a relationship between the pressure, volume, and temperature of a gas. The ideal gas law allows chemists to predict how, for example, the volume of a gas will change as its temperature is increased. The equation for the ideal gas law is

where P is pressure, V is volume, N is the number of particles (atoms or molecules), T is temperature, and kb is Boltzmann’s constant (a fundamental physical constant).


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