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Effect of Pressure

Discusses how pressure affects equilibrium direction in systems involving gaseous components.

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How can the effect of pressure on a reaction be applied to real life?

LeChâtelier’s Principle states, “If a dynamic equilibrium is disturbed by changing the conditions, the position of equilibrium moves to counteract the change.” When pressure is added to a reaction, the equilibrium shifts to the side with fewer molecules by increasing in speed and product amount.

Hemoblogin is an iron-rich protein located in red blood cells and provides oxygen to cells. The interaction between hemoglobin and oxygen is at equilibrium:

Hb(aq) + 4O2(g)  Hb(O2)4(aq)

Credit: Ray Bouknight
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raybouk/9123780892/lightbox/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

High altitudes can cause a shift in the hemoglobin-oxygen equilibrium [Figure1]

The equilbrium is maintained when there is a sufficient supply of oxygen. But what about scenarios when you are deprived of oxygen, such as when you hike at high altitudes? When the air pressure is low at high elevations, the equation shifts to the left and away from the oxygen-rich hemoglobin. This is when you begin to feel lightheaded since you are lacking oxygen because of decreased pressure. To solve this problem, hikers use pressurized oxygen from oxygen tanks, shifting the equation to the right. Additionally, the bodies of people who are used to high altitudes are able to create more hemoglobin, similarly shifting the equation to the right.

Creative Applications

  1. Describe the shift in the equilibrium of hemoglobin and carbon monoxide. (use the first resource link if necessary)
  2. What is the effect of pressure on the marine sediments of the ocean? (use the second resource link if necessary)
  3. What is the Haber process? What is its relationship to ammonia? (use the third resource link if necessary)

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  1. [1]^ Credit: Ray Bouknight; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raybouk/9123780892/lightbox/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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